Village of the Damned
Horror, Sci-Fi | 99 min | Released: 1995
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Pippa Pearthree
Our Rating: 7
The quiet coastal town of Midwich in California’s Marin County is invaded by an unseen force which leaves ten women mysteriously pregnant. Nine months later, the babies are born simultaneously on one night, though one is stillborn. At first, they all appear to be normal, but it does not take the parents long to realize that their children are anything but normal. As they grow older, the children are shown to have pale skin, white hair, fierce intellect and steely, cobalt eyes. The emotionless children display eerie psychic abilities and remarkable powers, which they use with deadly consequences, unleashing a reign of terror. When they actively use their mind-control powers, their irises or their entire eyes glow in different colours, mostly reddish-orange, but also green, yellow, violet, blue or pure white.
The children soon “pair off,” except for one of the boys, David, whose intended partner was the stillborn baby. As a result, he shows human compassion while still resembling the other children and retaining some degree of psychic powers. This leads to David not fitting in well with the rest of the alien offspring. Their leader, Mara (“daughter” of a local physician, Dr. Alan Chaffee; her mother, Barbara, commits suicide by walking off an ocean cliff), considers him less important due to his expression of emotions. Because of his childhood loss, he understands what the other children do not: pain. He and his mother Jill McGowan (the local school teacher) share a brief conversation about this, with David understanding that if he feels pain, he can understand others’ pain also. When the other children experience pain, they simply use their powers to inflict the same pain on the adult responsible for the pain.
Soon it is revealed that there are other colonies of psychic children in foreign countries, but they were quickly eliminated because their “parents” realized that they were evil. The scientific team at Midwich quickly flees the town to escape the chaos. Lead government scientist, Dr. Susan Verner, is killed by the children after being forced to show them the preserved unborn corpse who was intended to be David’s partner. Susan has secretly kept it so that she could perform an autopsy and study it. A mob of angry townspeople attempt to stop the children, but the children use their powers to kill the leader of the mob, causing the other townspeople to flee quickly. The State Police and the National Guard are then sent out to kill the children, who instead hypnotize them into shooting each other in a chaotic gun battle.
In order to rid the town of the children, Alan devises a plan: to detonate a briefcase of explosives inside the children’s classroom. By thinking of a brick wall, he is able to create a mental barrier and keep the presence of the bomb a secret from the children. Jill begs him to save David (because he is not like the others), and Alan agrees. He attempts to do this by asking David to leave the classroom to get his notebook from his car. Finally, Jill shows up, but the children stop her. David, angered by this, rushes to her defense and knocks Mara over. The children turn on David, but Jill rushes him from the building. At last, within a few seconds of the end of the bomb countdown, the children break through Alan’s defenses, the explosives detonate, destroying the barn and killing everyone, including Alan.
Jill and David survive the massacre; she says that they will both move to a place where nobody knows them. David, riding in his mother’s car, looks off into the distance as they drive away.
John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned is a 1995 science fiction-horror film directed by John Carpenter. It is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, and is based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. The 1995 remake is set in Northern California, while the book and original film were both set in the United Kingdom. The film was marketed with the tagline, “Beware the Children.”
Unlike its predecessor, the film was shot in widescreen color. Lloyd Paseman of the Eugene Register-Guard said that the shooting in widescreen color and the fact that major actors such as Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley were a part of the film made it so that the film was “anything but cheap.” Additional graphic violence was added in the remake; the children cause one adult to kill herself by cutting herself open with a surgical knife and another has an adult immolate herself.
John Carpenter moved the story from England to Northern California and set it in the contemporary time period. The film was shot in color. He gave female characters larger roles in the story. Paseman said that aside from those moves, the film “made no attempt to update his source material” and that the film was “not unlike most of the science-fiction/horror movies Hollywood churned out for a mostly teen-aged audience during the 1950s and into the early ’60s.”
If the children apply moderate psychic powers, their pupils have the appearances of red or green-flecked pupils, and the color becomes a bright white when they apply strong psychic powers.
Charlotte Gravenor, the hairstylist, bleached the hair of the actors who played the children, and then applied white hairspray to their hair. This made them appear like aliens. Bruce Nicholson and Greg Nicotero applied a special effect where the eye pupil colors change when the children seize control of the adults. Paseman said that the eye effect was “less impressive” than the hair effect.
Based on 30 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Village of the Damned holds a 29% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 4 out of 10.
In 1996, the film was nominated at the 16th Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Remake or Sequel.
Lloyd Paseman of the Eugene Register-Guard said that while the film did not attempt to make it “something” that its predecessor was not; the film had “mediocre” dialogue and plot development. He gave it two stars out of four. Paseman also remarked that in this film Reeve made an “earnest” attempt that Kozlowski did the highest quality acting for the film, that Dekker was “credible,” and that Hamill was “badly miscast.”