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  Village of the Damned Perilous Prodigies
Year: 1995
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Pippa Pearthree, Peter Jason, Constance Forslund, Karen Kahn, Thomas Dekker, Lindsey Haun, Cody Dorkin, Trishalee Hardy, Jessye Quarry, George 'Buck' Flower
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: It was just another morning in the small town of Midwich, California, though today an event was being held by the villagers which they all plan to attend. But as some of them awaken just after dawn, they cannot help but feel uneasy for some reason they cannot put their fingers on, including local doctor Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) who has business out of town yet hopes to be back when the party is in full swing. However, as the day draws on something odd happens there: all at once, everyone drops to the ground asleep, with no explanation.

Director John Carpenter had worked wonders with remakes over ten years before this was released when he went back to the source of The Thing from Another World and refashioned it as cult classic sci-fi horror The Thing. The same idea appeared to be the impetus behind this version of Village of the Damned, a modest but sinister - and alarming when it counted - adaptation of John Wyndham's classic novel of English unease, but where they certainly upped the ante as far as the special effects went, Carpenter and his team didn't have enough faith in the material, therefore aimed straight for overstatement and needlessly overthinking the story.

Thus there were additions to the plot which were more in keeping with a nineties paranoia effort, including the addition of Kirstie Alley in a dreadful performance of a dreadful character, a chainsmoking (yellow cigarettes!) and shady government operative who naturally wants to get all Roswell on the new arrivals. This contributed nothing aside from wearisome digs at the authorities, where the British version had handled that far better by ensuring it was the alien children who were the centre of our fears. Those alien children appear in Midwich not by being beamed down from some spaceship or other, but by being given birth to by the women of childbearing age in the village.

Whatever weirdness happened when everyone was asleep, it caused a bunch of pregnancies and as the film races through the years, we see these kids possess telepathic abilities which enable them to force the hands of the Earthlings. This especially occurs when they are slighted or in pain, and being the sort who blame others for everything rather than looking to themselves they lash out psychically, plunging one mother's arm into a pot of boiling soup for example, and all because the bairn singed her tongue on a bowl of the stuff that was a shade too hot. Soon after, the mother has taken a tumble off a nearby cliff, another unwelcome innovation to this, the increased body count.

The diminutive baddies act like superpowered slasher movie killers this time around, although in one absurd development one of them, David (Thomas Dekker), turns out quite nice since his "partner" was stillborn so he begins to learn this crazy, impulsive human thing called empathy, moving towards an unmade sequel. With the children acting like homicidal Mr Spocks, seeing nothing but cruel survival of the fittest logic to their eventual prevailing over we weak and feeble people, any actual substance to this that might have been hoped to be included - Mark Hamill shows up uselessly as a preacher, but offers nothing of any assistance morally or otherwise - was frittered away on setpieces. Many Carpenter fans lament his nineties dip in quality, and this Village of the Damned was the lowest ebb of that, though more a sign of the times than any terrible choices solely on the director's part. The remake juggernaut rumbled on, with even Carpenter suffering the treatment by and by. Music by him and Dave Davies.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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John Carpenter  (1948 - )

Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.

The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, the underrated Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live and Prince of Darkness all gained cult standing, but his movies from the nineties onwards have been disappointing: Escape from L.A., Vampires and Ghosts of Mars all sound better than they really are, although The Ward was a fair attempt at a return, if not widely seen. Has a habit of putting his name in the title. In 2018, after branching off into music, he returned to produce another Halloween sequel. He should direct a western sometime.

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