Village of the Damned (1995)

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Village of the Damned (1995)

Post  BoG on Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:20 pm



John Carpenter's remake of the 1960 film, based on a Wyndham novel, The Midwich Cuckoos. The sleepy little town of Midwich is visited by some alien force: all residents suddenly konk out, as well as all animals. The entire region is now covered in a null zone; anyone who enters it instantly loses consciousness. This lasts only a short time and everyone soon wakes up (except a couple of unfortunates who got knocked out at the wrong moment).  The government and military briefly investigate, but find nothing. However, soon after, 10 female residents are found to be pregnant. The government returns; the women give birth to 5 baby girls and 5 baby boys; one baby is stillborn.
I  watched this one again just the other day because it became one of the selections on my HD On-Demand channel. Christopher Reeve stars as the local physician (the George Sanders role in the original). I get this strangely uncomfortable feeling seeing this film these days, knowing I'm watching Christopher Reeve just before he had his terrible accident.  For some reason, it's different than watching, say, Superman (1978), in which I know that he's still many years away from getting paralyzed. Strange, I know.

This is one of Carpenter's weaker films. He seemed uncertain of what to do with the great concept, gifted to him by the original 1960 film and the novel. There's always a danger with remakes - unless one somehow (in all unlikelihood) improves on the original, there's really no point, as I see it. A few of Carpenter's films are compulsively re-watchable, probably due  to the concept, but then mostly unsatisfying as I watch them for the 3rd or 4th time, as if hoping to like them better. The themes involve the more evolved supplanting the existing top of the food chain - survival of the fittest - and fear of the unknown. What was the point of this alien experiment..? We can only guess...
Carpenter also has a tendency to throw in at least one or two cringe-worthy scenes, sabotaging his own effort, detracting from the overall film. In this one, there's a goofy scene with a stupid creepy janitor (George Buck Flower) who purposely antagonizes the children so the audience can view a grisly death; I had zero sympathy for the janitor, who came across like a child-abuser. The next one might have been with Mark Hamill's local priest character, who seemed on the verge of reverting to the cliched religious fanatic that Hollywood likes to display. But, Hamill ends it with some dignity. No, the embarrassing scene is with his wife, who leads a mob of citizens with torches, hellbent on vanquishing the children. I'm guessing that Carpenter couldn't resist an homage to the old Frankenstein films, in which we usually witnessed villagers with torches intending to overcome the mad scientist and his monster. Here, it just comes across as silly - I mean, it is 1995, or so I thought.
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Kirstie Alley and her character, the always-smoking scientific government rep, are a wasted opportunity. Maybe she didn't get proper direction from Carpenter, maybe she was having an off month... I dunno. One of the characters dies very early and the actor is credited fairly high. This did take me by surprise when I first saw the film in the theater; Carpenter obviously tried for a little sleight-of-hand towards any audience member who was familiar with the actor. I guess it worked. But, I've never been able to figure out the purpose of the stillborn baby.  Question   BoG's Score : 6 out of 10
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