ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Children of the Corn director Kurt Wimmer and stars Elena Kampouris and Kate Moyer about the new adaption. The trio discussed filming the movie during the pandemic and the different theories that could apply to the story. The movie is now playing in theaters and is set to release digitally and through video-on-demand on March 21.
“Possessed by a spirit in a dying cornfield, twelve-year-old Eden recruits the other children in her small town to rise up and take control,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Tired of having to pay the price for their parents’ mistakes, Eden leads the kids on a bloody rampage, killing the adults and anyone who opposes her. With all the adults jailed or dead, it comes down to one high schooler who won’t go along with the plan and becomes the town’s only hope of survival.”
Tyler Treese: Kurt, you obviously have this great short story by Stephen King to base the movie on, but there have been so many adaptations. What was your approach to make it true to the original spirit of the short story, while also creating a movie that’s fresh and new?
Kurt Wimmer: Well, the original spirit is that it’s about children and corn, so I think we did pretty well there. Also, it’s about children who decide to take matters in their own hand. In the original, they take matters into their own hands because they believe that the adults are morally corrupt. It’s the same thing here. The adults are all infighting. They’re cheating on each other, stealing from each other, destroying the world, the corn, for venal reasons.
The children decide to take matters in their hands, so it’s the same story. The only difference is that it’s told through the children’s point of view as opposed to the adults. It had already been done through the adults’ point of view I don’t know how many times. So I thought it was time to change it to the people that I actually think are more interesting, which is the children.
Kate, it’s very rare for a role this young to be like a leader. So what did you like most about playing Eden? Because she’s bossing around the other children and she’s in control. That had to be a lot of fun to play with.
Kate Moyer: It honestly was. I don’t even know how to explain it. It just felt like it was more powerful when she was in control of all these people and the way Kurt let Elena and I play our characters, it was really true to ourselves. So it kind of helped me build almost a little bit of confidence because I was in this leadership role as a young kid, and I feel like that really helped develop not only who I am today, but that also helped with the character. So I think it was pretty fun.
Kurt Wimmer: Can I just interject here? The other thing is Kate is a natural leader. And this is why we cast Kate, because we thought — and we were correct, I believe — in her auditions that she is one where we said, “Oh, I believe,” and it’s not an easy thing to do. Not everybody can do it. I believe that I, as a kid or other kids, would follow her. And it was to the point, interestingly enough. So it’s one thing about the performance, and that’s just very difficult to do, to be on screen, and that people actually say, “Okay, I believe it.”
It’s not just because they’re going through the motions and kids are following her. I believe that they would follow her, and I do, but it got to the point where where she would do something on that was unscripted on set. She would go left when she was supposed to go right. And the other kids, without even thinking about it, would automatically follow her left. So it’s a little bit of art imitates reality or reality imitates art. But yeah, so it’s both. She’s a great actress and she’s actually kind of a girlboss.
Elena, your character is the voice of reason here. She’s trying to de-escalate everything, get everybody out safe. What I really loved about your character is that she wants to get away from this small town, but she still cares about the people in it. She’s wants to do right by the town. So what did you like most about Boleyn and her arc here?
Elena Kampouris: I love Bo. She means so well and, you’re right, she wants to de-escalate. I don’t know how good of a job she does but she means so well. She’s the best of intentions. That was an exciting element in this character, because she’s so bright and she’s got , wonderful future ahead of her. She’s so capable and she’s off to become a scientist in Boston and she has all this stuff ahead, but she’s pulled back because the town and the corn is so much a part of her heart and her soul, and her brother, who she’s going to leave behind in this dying, decaying world with all this dysfunction left behind. The corn is so ingrained in the fabric of the community. Seeing it die is like seeing a loved one wither away.
So it very much means a lot to her and she’s got a fierce loyalty and ownership that she feels towards the land and the people. So having that push and pull was fun to play with. Then to get to do these scenes with Kate — you’re so juicy! I was looking forward to them so much when I first read the script, like these power dynamics between these two headstrong girls, both like opposites. They’re opposites, but they’re also more similar than you think, you know? And the fact of what they’re reacting to, which Kurt has been explaining.
Kurt Wimmer: Elena, you burnt down an entire cornfield. Those are living organisms, and you set it all on fire!
Elena Kampouris: Well that’s what I meant about the de-escalating thing!
Kurt Wimmer: You call that de-escalation?! You blew the place up!
Elena Kampouris: There’s a domino effect!
Kurt Wimmer: Yeah, she blows it up real good.
So the corn’s dying but the fungus is really thriving here. I like that element you add with the fungus there and you tie it into the Salem witch trials. I was looking into this and it’s a real thing. How’d you come across that fungus that’s on dead corn?
Kurt Wimmer: I don’t know, I just know it. But I’m glad you … not many people actually are paying that close attention to the movie, I think, and they don’t really understand that there are layers to this and it is very possible that this entire movie is hallucination on both’s parts. At the beginning of the movie, it’s clear she’s hallucinating — she says it out loud and we see the corn roots are growing and retracting.
So this concept of ergot — some people have theorized that it was responsible for the Salem Witch Trials. So the thing it was just interesting to me to sort of leave the question open, that I don’t know the answer. These kids are reacting to the horrible things that the adults are doing or they they play out in this corn all day every day.
We grew this corn — we grew about 50 acres of corn. We grew it and we walked through it and at first, when we began filming, the pollen was just everywhere. Clouds, and we would walk through it and we’re like, “We’re breathing this in. This is real. I’m not going to breathe too deeply here.” But the concept that it’s a mass hallucination, that this fungus caused the kids to do go crazy, fundamentally, or it’s an allergic reaction by the Earth and corn to all the GMOs and pesticides that have been put into it. So all of these possibilities were very interesting to me and I honestly don’t know what the truth is. In other words, the question really is, “Is the monster, is He Who Walks Behind the Rows, real?” I don’t think anybody knows.
Elena Kampouris: Can I just say, Tyler, I love that you caught that thing about the hallucinations and the microtoxins, because that was something Kurt — he said, “I just know this,” like, this blew my mind. That was what I was attracted to the story for, because I had never seen something tackle this subject matter in the sense of I had never heard about the Dancing Plague of 1518. So after reading the script, I fell into the rabbit hole and I read about all the stuff that happened in the 14th to 17th centuries where people would get into these mass hysteric … there were these social phenomenon. One single woman would start dancing — she’d have these spasms that looked like her dancing.
Kurt Wimmer: They danced for days and some people died.
Elena Kampouris: And they would die of exhaustion. The villagers thought that they had hot blood, so they’d play music and it would only fuel the mania. It was actually from the toxins in the rye in the bread that they were eating. I was like, what the heck? And it happened particularly during times of hardship. So I was like, “This is such a fascinating thing.”
Kurt Wimmer: It was really just a 16th century rave [Laughs].
Kate, you seem lovely, but you’re so creepy in this movie. What did you like most about playing this character with a real psychotic edge to her? I’m sure you got some stress out filming some of these scenes.
Kate Moyer: Of course I did, because when we first started filming, it was Covid. So obviously in my 11-year-old mind, I wasn’t exactly sure about what was going on. So I was trying to figure that out. We were in quarantine and we had to follow these guidelines and you kind of roll with it, you adapt because you definitely want to work on this film and I feel like that was really important. I feel like it wasn’t as stressful as people would assume it was. I feel like it was more natural because everyone was so amazing and we all were connected. It felt like a big family. So it felt like I was just acting with like a brother or sister every day. It wasn’t like it was just random people.
Kurt Wimmer: Yeah, everybody got along really well around the crew, the set — nobody fought, ever. Even though it was very stressful just because of the time pressures, we all just got through it and we loved each other.
Elena, it has to be really cool to contribute to the legacy of this series. It’s 11 movies deep now. How aware of Children of the Corn were you before you got onto this project?
Elena Kampouris: Honestly, Tyler — Kurt here must be like, “Enough we get it! You love horror!” All my life I watched tons of horror movies with my mom. So I know Stephen King. I’d seen some of the movies when I was younger, but I didn’t revisit them in reapproaching this because this is such an inventive, fresh, and totally different take on it. So I was like, “Let’s just go on with a clean slate,” though with much respect and awareness of the legacy and the bar that’s been set. It was just like, “Let’s dive right in and tackle it.”
I feel like it still honors the classics and what that story represents, but it brings something new and you’ve got He Who Walks actually showing up in this. So that, to me, is very exciting. That question, like Kurt’s saying, is it all a dream? Is this all happening in the afterlife? Is this a manifestation of their hallucinations? What is it? Any theory could very well work. Who knows? That ambiguity is really Interesting.
Kurt Wimmer: And we’ll never tell anybody about that final scene we shot with with both of these ladies. That was pretty crazy.
Kate Moyer: It was fun for me!
Elena Kampouris: A lot of fun. Lot of fun, Tyler.
Kurt, I love the element of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. How did you get the thought of incorporating that into the script?
Kurt Wimmer: Listen, it all just comes to me as I’m writing it. I can’t really say this and that, but the Red Queen, obviously, is a staple in Western literature. It’s something that almost everybody knows and can relate to — old or young. And the Red Queen, to me, the thing she symbolizes and embodies most is someone who wants to control their environment. She paints the white roses red. She wants red roses. So what does she do? She doesn’t plant them, she just paints them.
And that’s Eden. If the world doesn’t suit her, she goes and changes the world. That, to me, says the most about her character and that’s what she does. She doesn’t like what’s going on, so she takes matters into her own hands, like the Red Queen. The other thing the Red Queen is famous for is saying, “Off with their heads,” although Eden says, “Chop her up.”