UMU’s Rob delivers his latest “Sunday’s with…” installment with a look at ‘John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned.’
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Release Date: April 28, 1995
Run Time: 99 minutes
Starring: Christopher Reeve
Director: John Carpenter
Rob’s Score: 5.5/10
“Wouldn’t it be a noisy world if we all said what we thought?”- Dr. Verner
Village of the Damned introduces us to the citizens of a small town called Midwich. One afternoon, every man, woman, child, and animal within the town limits black out. This odd occurrence calls the attention of the neighboring police, and Dr. Susan Verner (Kristie Alley). As the doctor Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) returns to the town, the animals and townspeople begin to stir and wake up. The blackout causes panic and they all go to Dr. Chaffee for checkups; the ten women in town discover that they are all pregnant. The towns people are of course outraged and concerned as to how this could have happened, and Dr. Verner returns to ease the nerves of the people, and even to offer government assistance to those who decide to keep the children. Nine months later, all ten pregnant women give birth at the same time, and 9 of the 10 children survive, as one of them was a still born. As the newborns grow they all develop bright white hair, they all stick together, and they all have an amazingly high level of intelligence. The odd behaviors start to turn violent towards the adults in Midwich, and the surviving townsfolk must decide if they are going to be controlled by the children, or can they fight back and reclaim their town. Village of the Damned is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name directed by Wolf Rilla. Both films were based on the 1957 book “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham.
Village of the Damned was one of Carpenter’s last few films, and in typical fashion mixes the sci-fi and horror genre. This film touches on a lot of different points, but one of my complaints is that it doesn’t really explore any of them, which really hurts character development. Horror and science fiction films often take an everyday unease or social problem and goes about exploring that topic in a fictional way, and this film attempts to do the same. From the start of the movie, with the unexpected pregnancies, we are smacked in the face with the topic of not only an unexpected pregnancy, but also of the fall out of this discovery. The issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice is a very heated topic with passionate views on both side. This issue is mentioned in the film; however we see no follow up. We see no discussion or even debates among the women, or even the husbands and wives as to what to do. This point is explained away by government assistance, but that is a relatively unsatisfying response. Going a little further with this question could have served the film beneficially as we not only would have gotten more characterization but it could also have added a little extra drama. The fear of pregnancy because of infidelity is another topic that is touched on, but only explored with a few lines. As the children rise to power the town’s folk more or less just accept this. In my opinion this is another wasted opportunity for character development. The everlasting theme of a “vague and menacing government agency” (thank you Nightvale!) is again brought up in this film. Aside from the failures in character development, this film is very creepy at times, and the biggest success of this film is the kids. They are so damn creepy! From the visual look with the white hair, to their higher intelligence, emotionless, and their dialogue they are very unnerving. They perfectly capture the horror that is violence hidden behind the guise of childhood innocence. One of the more successful plot points is the nature vs. nurture among the children themselves. David is starting to develop feelings and emotions. The casting of David is a smart as it tries to convey that he can still be saved and molded because he looks to be younger than the rest. It is interesting to see how he internally struggles with what he is versus what he is developing into, as well as how the other children and adults react to this change in temperament. In this regard, Village of the Damned film nails it.
Village of the Damned sports an ensemble cast, that when given the opportunity, they shine. We have Christopher Reeve, and Kristy Alley in the lead roles, however it is an under appreciated Linda Kozlowski (of Crocodile Dundee fame) who really excels. Her performance as a widow dealing with the loss of a husband, raising a child, and then almost losing said child is very gripping. The film also features the amazingly talented Mark Hamill (if you don’t know at least one of his roles I can’t help you!) as the town reverend. The real stars of this film however, are the kids, especially Lindsay Haun, who portrays Mara, the daughter of Dr. Chaffee, and the leader of the children. Thomas Dekker shined as David (the son of Kozlowski), as he struggles with what he is predestined to do and his ever growing emotions. John Carpenter and Dave Davies take the duty of providing the score and as usual do a very solid job. We get a coastal small town score that helps facilitate the fear and hopelessness of the town. There is little here in the way of special effects, however this film sports some very graphic and violent scenes that gives us a deep look into the emotionless children, and their indifference to everyone else.
Village of the Damned highly under performed at the box office and has more or less garnered scathing reviews. In 2001, Carpenter admitted in an interview with vulture that:
“I’m really not passionate about Village of the Damned. I was getting rid of a contractual assignment.”
That lack of passion can be seen, and the film struggles because of the lack of character development. With that being said the children are very creepy, and the violence is pretty brutal. I would recommend a view if you’re in the mood for a creepy 90’s horror flick, just try not to over analyze it or you will be left disappointed.