From the master of suspense, John Carpenter, comes a chilling new version of the sci-fi classic. Something is terribly wrong in the tiny village of Midwich. After an unseen force invades a quiet coastal town, ten women mysteriously find themselves pregnant. Local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) and government scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley) join forces when the women simultaneously give birth…and the reign of terror begins. In what the New York Times calls “one scarifying trip,” the people of Midwich must try to find a way to stop the children in the Village of the Damned.
Well, this film pretty much supports my long-standing impression that John Carpenter is a shadow of his former self. Phew… this stunk. And I SO wanted to like it! In fact, I was so keen on seeing it suddenly, that I’ve been craving the original as well.
Because, yes, this is a remake.
I don’t know if John Carpenter had totally lost his mojo by this point in his career and simply decided to go into auto pilot, but, if that’s that case, I wouldn’t be surprised: his next film would actually be a sequel/remake of his own ‘Escape from New York’. And, with the exception of ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ (which is chiefly a flawed gem), all of the Carpenter films of the era were subpar. So perhaps he was just running on fumes by then.
Frankly, it’s really challenging trying to find something of value in ‘Village of the Damned’.
For starters, it looked and felt like one of the weaker Stephen King made-for-TV movies. We all know how bad they can get, and this ranks right up there with the worst ones. Was John Carpenter auditioning to make another Stephen King-based film (he had successfully made ‘Christine’)? Or was he ripping off a style that was popular at the time (bad as they were, SK-based TV movies were a dime a dozen in the mid-’90s)?
The editing job and the set-up of scenes were pretty bad. Terrible, even. Was it the editor’s fault, or the director’s? Or was it simply that the screenwriter did a poor adaptation? Either way, it felt like whole scenes were missing and that the film could (should?) have been longer, to develop the situations more and provide more context. I mean, seriously, sometimes characters were suddenly together without any prior notice. It gave the impression of returning from commercials!
The special effects were also super cheap @$$-looking. And yet there weren’t many effects in here – so where was the budget allocated to? It certainly wasn’t the music, which was again supplied by John Carpenter (it’s a staple of his films). He’s done better: this hoaky electronic crap was completely unsuitable for the film. Honestly, I really like electronic scores – but this was ungood beyond words and this particular film would have benefitted from something a little bit more atmospheric.
There was some saving grace in the acting department: Christopher Reeve, who brings intelligence and emotion to his role and outshines just about everyone else. That’s saying quite a lot, actually, as Reeve was never a critically-acclaimed thespian. But, when paired with Kirstie Alley, he comes off as Lawrence Olivier. Krustie was frightful in this (you’d think that this would be perfect for this sort of film, but I mean it in the not-so-delightful way ).
And then the film left me quizzical on so many counts:
-who does Krustie represent? At first, she appears to be from a shadowy government agency (she even wears all black clothes!). But later she wonders about a government conspiracy. So what gives? Whose side is she on?
-why are all the husbands suddenly okay with their wives giving birth to aliens? It makes complete sense for the women to be okay with this, because they were spellbound (by some cheesy wind-tunnel special effects, it must be noted). But the husbands weren’t.
-initially, the village seems to be larger than the nine platinum-wigged children would suggest; streets were packed and many of the populace were women. Thus, there had to be more than 10 women capable of giving birth in that WHOLE town. And since this thing affected everyone in town, this miniscule result seems somewhat ridiculous
-given how frightened of the children the village people (not the band! They’re not in this movie ) are, why doesn’t anyone leave town? Do the kids not permit it, à la Twilight Zone? Or are these people just plain stupid?
The list goes on and on – this film is a jumbled mess. It’s truly as bad as all the critics and reviews say. Honest. The concept is intriguing, and has been explored before in other films (‘The Omen’, ‘The Bad Seed’, ….etc.), but this version of the story is wholly unpalatable.
Having said this, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing the original ‘Village of the Damned’ now…