Sunday, October 16, 2016
Village of the Damned (1995 film)
Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is the story of a small town that is ravaged by mysterious children women gave birth to during following a strange blackout as they would try and control everything around them. Directed and co-scored by John Carpenter and screenplay by David Himmelstein, the film is remake of the 1960 horror film by Wolf Rilla as it is updated and set in Northern California as it play into a modern world ravaged by mysterious children. Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Thomas Dekker, Meredith Salenger, and Mark Hamill. Village of the Damned is a flat-out boring and terrible film from John Carpenter.
A small yet isolated town in Northern California goes into a strange blackout where everyone passes out with a few of its locals dead where ten of its women gave birth to children nine months later as their children have become these strange and controlling figures trying to kill those who threaten them. That is pretty much the premise of the film as a whole as it has a lot of mystique into what the locals are dealing with where a doctor, a school principal, and a government agent try to figure out what is going on. The film’s screenplay, which features un-credited work from Steven Siebert and Larry Sulkis, tries to maintain that air of mystique ends up with very little answers about the blackout and why these children act so strange and kill those who threaten them with only their eyes. At the same time, there is very little development with the locals with the exception of Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve), the school principal Jill McGowan (Linda Kozlowski), and the government agent Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley).
Yet, they’re given some awful dialogue while Dr. Verner has to give a lot of exposition that never makes a lot of sense as it relates to the blackout and these powers that the children have. Jill becomes attached to her son David (Thomas Dekker) who would begin to understand and express emotions unlike the other children who were born on the same day as well as conceived on the day of the blackout. David is stunted because he doesn’t have a mate like the other kids as his supposed mate is a stillborn child while the others have someone to latch on. It also makes them very dangerous as they would make the adults, who threaten them, to kill themselves. Unfortunately, the children are among the most uninteresting antagonists in the film as they just spout a bunch of very clinical ideas as the dialogue and such just makes it sound very idiotic.
John Carpenter’s direction has some nice visual moments that play into beauty of the locations as it is shot in Marin County in California. Yet, it never really does anything to engage the audience into the suspense as Carpenter just goes for something straight due to the lackluster elements of the script. The suspense never holds up as the moments where the children would have their eyes glow to make the adults harm themselves often comes across as forced. There are these moments of violence that are intense but it also comes across as cheesy where Carpenter is really hampered by the many shortcomings of the script. The compositions in the medium shots and close-ups has Carpenter try to flesh out the drama while creating moments that are simple in the way characters interact each other. Unfortunately, it would lead to these moments of suspense as its climax that involves police and the national guard trying to stop those children becomes this ridiculous bloodbath that is very lackluster. Overall, Carpenter creates a very uneventful and lazy suspense film about scary children wreaking havoc into a small town.
Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does nice work with the cinematography as it is mostly natural and sunny for some of the daytime exteriors in the locations while using some lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Edward A. Warschilka does terrible work with the editing as it is nonsensical at times to play into the suspense and action as well as having some odd transitions that really don‘t work. Production designer Rodger Maus, with art director Christa Munro and set decorators Rick Brown and Don De Fina, does fantastic work with the look of the town including the barn where the children would stay in the film‘s third act. Costume designer Robin Michael Bush does terrific work with the costumes as a lot of the clothes are casual with the exception of the children with their gray and white clothes.
Special makeup effects artist Rob Hinderstein and hair stylist Charlotte Parker do excellent work with the look of the kids from the white hair and pale skin as well as the creepiness of their presence. Visual effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does fine work with some of the minimal visual effects for the blackout sequence as well as the scenes where the children‘s eyes glow. Sound editor John Dunn does superb work with some of the sound from the way the glowing eyes sound as well as some of the moments of chaos. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Dave Davies is pretty good with Carpenter providing a largely low-key synthesizer score to play into the suspense with Davies providing some blues-based guitars in the background.
The casting by Reuben Cannon, Peter Jason, Sandy King, and Cheryl Miller is decent with the actors they used though none of them really had any strong material to work. Small roles from Karen Kahn as Dr. Chaffee’s wife Barbara, Constance Forslund as Jill’s friend Gail, Peter Jason as Gail’s husband Ben, George “Buck” Flower as a janitor who doesn’t like the strange kids, and Pippa Pearthree as the reverend’s wife Sarah are among those who suffer from the script as do Michael Pare as Jill’s husband Frank who dies early in the film and Meredith Salenger as a young virgin named Melanie who would give birth to the stillborn child. Mark Hamill is miscast as Reverend George as a town minister that tries to maintain some calm as he too becomes suspicious of the children as Hamill tries to ham it up which doesn’t work.
The performances of Thomas Dekker and Lindsey Haun in their respective roles as the strange children in David and Mara are just horrible as they provide some very amateurish and unrealistic performances while their line-reading is just awful to hear as is the other child actors playing the weird kids. Linda Kozlowski is alright as Jill as a woman who loses her husband and is a mother to the boy David as she tries to see if there is any humanity in the children as she becomes attached to her son. Kirstie Alley is pretty good as Dr. Susan Verner as a government agent that knows about these events as she tries to see how to stop them but also become aware of their powers. Finally, there’s Christopher Reeve in a terrific performance as Dr. Alan Chaffee as a man that tries to talk to the children and see if there is any humanity in them as well as be one of the few who could out-think them.
Despite a few decent performances and some nice visuals, Village of the Damned is an atrocious film from John Carpenter. Due to its very poor script, lack of any meaty suspense, and too much exposition that becomes nonsensical. It’s a film that showcases a filmmaker phoning it in while never really do anything to make the story engaging. In the end, Village of the Damned is an awful film from John Carpenter.
Related: Village of the Damned (1960 film)
John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone's Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward
The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Part 1 - Part 2
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