Movie Review: VILLAGE OF THE DAMNEDUniversal Pictures
1995
R

“It isn’t a matter of hate. It is a biological obligation.”

In the remote town of Minwich, California, a strange shadowy entity descends upon the unsuspecting townsfolk, rendering everyone who lives there and wanders into the town asleep from 10 am to 4 pm. This, depending on what they were doing and where they were at the time of the massive slumber-fest, causes a couple of fatal accidents (note to self: NEVER be caught driving or cooking burgers over a BBQ pit when some mystical force puts me to sleep). Of course, those pale in comparison when ten of the women of the town discover that they’re all pregnant. At the same time. For no apparent reason. Even though one teenage girl is a virgin. This obviously attracts the attention of a government-funded scientific research group, who seems to have been studying similar occurrences like this all around the world. And in nine months, all ten of the women give birth simultaneously to their children (minus one- it’s still-born), and the little brats grow up sporting white-blond hair, ultra-pale skin, and an emotionless zombie-like demeanor (evidently that “mystical force” was Edgar Winter). Not to mention showcasing high intelligence, mind controlling gifts, and Bette Davis eyes. Soon, as the townsfolk realize what kind of curse has beset their unassuming little village, the body count starts rising as the little monsters mind-zap anyone who wishes to do the kids harm. Can these children be stopped before the town is obliterated and they manage to move out in the world? Let me put it to you this way- BOOM!

…now, keep in mind that I have yet to see the original of this movie. So, comparing the remake to its original counterpart won’t hinder my opinion of the flick. I have, however, heard those claims that the first was superior to this one, which I don’t doubt. Usually the classic version is far better than any modern re-imaging, with few exceptions. So, with that thought in mind…

…the first thing that struck me was the amount of actors who have previously been pigeonholed in Pop Culture featured. We have Christopher Reeves, who will always be known as Superman, as the town doctor and father of the leader of the Evil Brat Pack. We have Cheers owner/barmaid Kristie Alley as the scientist studying the children. There’s former whiney moisture farmboy-turned-Jedi Knight Mark Hamill playing a rather creepy Reverend (not the “he touched me funny” creepy, just the “mortician” kind of creepy), and last but certainly not least, we have Crocodile Dundee’s girlfriend/wife, Linda Kowsloski as the widow mother of David, the runt of the Minwich Nine. It’s a virtual pop culture geek extravaganza here…

…yes, it’s a mindless film. But it’s the “guilty pleasure” kind of mindless, which is why I enjoyed it. How can you go wrong with watching nine runts dressed in the same drab retro-like clothes, walking in unison and using their powers and glowing eyes to make people harm themselves? How can you go wrong with the army and the police being mind controlled into annihilating each other with firearms in a sea of explosions and bullets? How can you go wrong watching Mark Hamill’s over-the-top delivery of “DON’T YOU FEEL?!?” You just can’t. It’s that kind of cheesy dressing that Carpenter uses to take the edge off of the much more serious philosophical underpinnings of his movies (take, for instance, that famous 15-minute fight scene over a pair of sunglasses in his previous flick, They Live). And speaking of the “philosophical underpinnings” of this movie…

…there are several questions being explored in Village Of The Damned. Will a parent stand by his or her child whatever that child’s actions may be? Is individuality the source of humanity? The thing is, the movie only glazes over these questions, never really getting to them. Instead, the script takes the coward’s way out, way more interested in showing innocent folks offing themselves and things going boom. There’s also the half-arsed approach to the subplots, resulting in rather silly decisions. For example, why do the kids respect the Reeve’s character? I never saw him do anything to earn that respect. Or, who was the genius that put a propane tank at the end of that road? Or, why wasn’t Meredith Salenger’s character (the teenage girl) explored more? I was interested in her plight, but all she amounted to was a bunch of crying, one drunk scene in the graveyard, and then she just disappeared. Hate when that happens…

…speaking of characterization, it seems the only one I got into was Christopher Reeve. He definitely is a very underrated actor, and he works his chops nicely with the material he’s given here. The same can NOT be said for much of the rest of the cast, though. Kristi Alley’s character relies on cigarettes to act. She smokes in every frickin’ scene. That’s pretty much all she delivers. Linda Kowsloski brought enough depth to here character, as the widowed mother trying to install humanity in her child. Mark Hamill’s character came off as very two-dimensional, at times chewing a little too hard on some scenes. MAJOR props to the child actors, as they nailed the emotionless dialog and robotic physical acting. Very impressive, nicely done…

…in the end, Village Of The Damned made up for the lazy script with a cool premise, some interesting death scenes, some genuine creepiness from the kids just walking or turning their heads at the same time, cool visual effects, a moderate pace, and a rather good performance by Christopher Reeve. Instead of exploring the themes fully, it gives us 90 minutes of harmless cinematic candy to suck on. Good movie, but not Carpenter’s best…

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