Village of the Damned comes near the end of John Carpenter’s extraordinary run of films from Dark Star to the much maligned but underrated Escape From L.A. It’s one of his lesser films but contains many virtues and for a remake of a classic horror film it remains one of the better ones, it may not have surpassed the original source film like Carpenter’s The Thing a decade earlier but it’s a solid film. It was also Christopher Reeves’ last film before he became paralysed due to a horse riding accident.
John Wyndham’s source novel The Midwich Cuckoos and the original film is set in England but this has been changed to a small Northern California town. Midwich has a mass blackout and when everyone wakes up, the woman find out they are mysteriously pregnant. The government offers to pay families to keep the babies for scientific purposes so everyone agrees to go through with the pregnancy. Everything seems fine but the kids eventually grow into white-haired alien kids who form their own clique and shun the rest of the town’s population to the dismay of their parents.
Carpenter clearly didn’t originate the project but and he obviously partially did it for the money but also because it’s a solid sci-fi/horror story he could sink his teeth in. The film has a flat 90s aesthetic but even within that it contains moments of visual style that is fitting of Carpenter’s work especially during the climax. The climax has a ticking time bomb feel both figuratively and literally that does the film favours and really turns the film around after some more spiritless moments.
Lindsey Haun is genuinely creepy as the leader of the kids, she has went on to star in the TV show True Blood. Christopher Reeves gives one of his better performances in a fairly unremarkable career besides his role as Superman and Mark Hamill has been criticised as being miscast as the local priest but I think he is actually relatively good in the role. Kirstie Alley plays the government agent who comes to small town to investigation the strange occurrences in the town, it’s amusing because the kids give off a cult vibe and she is one of the most adamant celebrity followers of Scientology.
Overall Village of the Damned remains one of Carpenter’s lesser films but it has enough genre thrills and an interesting enough sci-fi/horror story to keep the viewer interested and runs at a quick pace of 90 minutes. It’s a crime that after Escape from L.A. Carpenter has for the most been forced to make poor genre films to pay the bills and hasn’t been able to continue making the kind of intelligent films he built his career upon those many years ago. However it’s a key film in the gradual decline in the quality of his films but he has certainly done much worst.
Genre: Sci-fi/Horror Distributor: Fabulous Films BD Release Date: 27th April 2015 (UK) Rating: 15 Director: John Carpenter Cast: Christopher Reeves, Kirstie Allen, Mark Hamill Buy: John Carpenter’s Village Of The Damned [Blu-ray]