Village of the Damned
1995, R, 99 min. Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Mark Hamill.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 28, 1995
Carpenter's updating of the classic 1960 chiller is mediocre at best, and at times plummets into unintentional humor. It's arguably the weakest horror film he's ever made. In the remote farming community of Midwich (northern California, judging from the landscape), a mysterious force renders the entire town unconscious for six hours one fall afternoon. Government researchers, headed by a woefully miscast Alley, scurry about posing inane theories but are essentially baffled until, presumably nine months later, all of the women in the town give birth -- including the town virgin -- to nearly identical babies: blond, tow-headed moppets with a knack for telepathy and fierce, hypnotic gazes that control both their parents and anyone who stands in their way. Reeve, as the town's bewildered M.D., is one of the not-so-proud papas and, also, the only person in the village who seems to have any control over the little darlings. Equally miscast, Reeve's lame attempts at knowledgeable prescience (“Did you hear something, honey? It sounded like… whispering!”), alien obstetrics, and his set-up as the town's savior bring new meaning to the term “labored.” (I won't even go into Mark Hamill's zombified impersonation of the local priest.) Carpenter's choice of material seems to have foiled him every step of the way. The original film, set in the remote Cornish lowlands, was eerie in its subtle depiction of the children as enigmatic forces of evil. Here, Carpenter drags in a hackneyed, half-formed “alien visitors/secret government cabal” subplot, which has the children's true forms looking like nothing so much as the little gray men from Schwa. At times, it feels like a rush job, coming so fast on the heels of Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness. Whatever happened, Carpenter's remake is decidedly beneath his normal talents. Let's hope he doesn't opt to update the original film's sequel, Children of the Damned.