Village of the Damned Reviews
Basically a direct remake of the English 60's film with very little embellishments. This film has quite a few chilling scenes that stayed in my mind even 15 years a go.
The story of many women becoming pregnant after an unusual blackout & all give birth to these unsettling babies that grow into telepathic children. A little lame parts but I found the film genuinely entertaining more than scary.
By 1995 standards, a plot where the primary concept is about mind controlling children hardly seems as scary any more. Village of the Damned was originally a low budget feature while the remake has the budget of $22 million, and that money seems largely spent on locations, the cast and visual effects. In that sense the film still feels like a low budget feature, but for the concept to shock viewers of the contemporary age the concepts have to be updated more. And watching characters put their hands in boiling pots or pouring chemicals in their eyes under the implied mind control of children hardly seems scary any more. For it to be scary, either there would have to be more gruesome forms of torture happening or more importantly, the visual style would have to grasp the horror a lot better. The ways in which characters dies later become better, but they still feel tame and slow. When the characters are pushed into torturing themselves or each other, we only really see it from a middle shot perspective without getting an insight into the terror running through the minds of the characters. While the final scene in the film picks up its game and improves in terms of tension and visual style, up until then Village of the Damned is largely just a slow moving and rather empty horror film which lacks the eerie charm of the more simple John Carpenter horror films. Frankly, the text just does not translate well into the contemporary age which means that the ultimate fault in the film is the fact that it did not need to be remade.
John Carpenter is a talented filmmaker, but Village of the Damned suggests that he works better with his own material than at remaking somebody else's. His work on Village of the Damned has its benefits, but it certainly does not reflect his finest directorial skills as the feature is caught up in the past and the present, maintaining material which is too tame for the present and lacking the power to scare the age. It is a slow film which doesn't build tension all that well with its only real redeeming narrative quality being the relationship that protagonist Dr. Alan Chaffee shares with the enemy children of the story. There is also a mild sense of visual appeal in the story because the scenery and production design certainly makes the village of Midwich feel legitimate while the way that John Carpenter makes use of visual effects allows the antagonists of the story to impose a genuine sense of threat on the audience. The cinematography also captures this nicely, but it still feels shallow. The visuals in Village of the Damned are shown off but the cinematography fails to give viewers a sense of the claustrophobic terror, reminding me once again that Gary B. Kibbe is not a director of photography who knows how to involve himself in a film after he did it the first time on John Carpenter's Vampires where I felt that he was very relevant to ensuring that the stylish potential of the film was never achieved. He shows slight improvement in Village of the Damned and the scenery that is depicted does certainly look nice, but Village of the Damned hardly has the most effective visual style which means that the thin narrative of the film has nothing to hide behind and there is little horror to come from the imagery in the film. Village of the Damned is not a film which either looks scary or feels scary, and so it is bereft of the thrills that it would need to succeed in its own genre.
You would think that with a talented line of cast members there would be a greater impact made by the actors, but that is unfortunately a false prophecy.
I will say that I did mildly enjoy Christopher Reeves' performance over all others. His performance wasn't a breakthrough one and his character was not a great creation, but Christopher Reeve captures a sense of melancholic fear as a response to the strange situation presented by the narrative. But more impressively, Christopher Reeve shares a really interesting chemistry with the child actors which gives the film some interesting moments when it touches upon the relationship that Dr. Alan Chaffee shares with them. Their relationship is one of the highlights of the film, particularly because of the darkly performance of Lindsey Haun who perfectly captures the sadistic and powerful nature of the character Mara Chaffee. The two actors share an interesting chemistry and have some really intense interactions which prove to be some of the most entertaining moments of the film as they both maintain similar levels of power in different regards. Christopher Reeve and Lindsey Haun are the two finest cast members of Village of the Damned.
Linda Kozlowski seems to be the one who is the most engaged in the story with Village of the Damned and determined to prove herself, and though the narrative and character limitations hold her back, she proves to do a rather effective job. She really gets the dramatic context of the story at multiple times which makes the atmosphere somewhat more effective. Thomas Dekker also maintains a distinctive friendly childish charm about him while capturing the sinister nature of the character at the same time.
Village of the Damned also features appearances from both Michael Pare and Mark Hamill, but it is a shame that neither of them are really put to use due to very brief appearances.
So Village of the Damned is not without its moments, but they are buried beneath a dated and overly simplistic narrative and a film style which is largely bereft of effective horror which hardly compares to John Carpenter's finer works by milestones.