Carpenter's Damned United
In many ways I feel sorry for John Carpenter, following his iconic "Halloween", which helped to define the horror genre, everything he has delivered since has had a lot to live up to and rarely comes close to being as good. One of his movies which unfortunately struggles is his remake of "Village of the Damned", originally a British horror which under his directorship moves to America. "Village of the Damned" ends up a wasted idea as it becomes a movie of two halves, an intriguing and well made first half and an almost corny second half. As such "Village of the Damned" is one of those movies which is sort of more entertaining for what is bad rather than what is good.
When the small town of Midwich suddenly becomes covered in a whispering cloud everyone under the cloud falls unconscious. Weeks after this strange occurrence several of the town's women discover they are pregnant and they all became pregnant on that day. With government scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley) on hand as well as the towns doctor Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve - Superman) it becomes apparent that these pregnancies are not normal and have something to do with non humans. 9 months on and following the birth of these special children things get very strange as these children start showing signs of special powers including mind reading and mind control which they start to use to hurt anyone who threatens them.
The first half of "Village of the Damned" is definitely where it's at its best as we enter the world of Midwich a friendly place which gets thrown into turmoil when something strange happens. Being a sci-fi horror movie it is far fetched but watching everyone in Midwich suddenly fall unconscious after a whispering cloud engulfs them is brilliant as are those little horror scenes which punctuate this event such as a car crash and an incident with a Bar B Q. And what follows as several of the women discover that they have all fallen pregnant on that same day is both intriguing and sort of humorous. That is the thing, Carpenter manages to make this first half so intriguing yet it is infused with some great dark humour that it makes you smile whilst also throwing in a few elements of horror.
This first half culminates in the multiple births which is another great scene but from then on "Village of the Damned" ends up becoming quite cheesy. We quickly understand that these children are not human with their blank expressions and platinum hair and that they possess special abilities such as mind reading and mind control. What basically follows is these children becoming a dominant force, killing those who threaten them and hatching a master plan whilst their parents struggle with acknowledging that their children are basically evil and not really human.
The trouble is that there is very little which is scary in this second half and you know when a moment of horror is coming because the children's eyes turn a nice shade of kryptonite green. As such it is a case of a dull storyline as these children grow more powerful punctuated by telegraphed horror. Some of the horror is better than others but rarely did this second half really shock, even the big ending isn't that shocking or frightening.
It almost seems as if John Carpenter was struggling to find the right balance as if "Village of the Damned" was meant to be a horror with dark humour because it has some purposefully funny moments and not all of them dark. A scene where Dr. Alan Chaffee played by Christopher Reeve is invited to try out a test your strength machine is a brilliant mickey take of Reeve's performance as Superman. And there are other humorous moments which crop up and usually make you smile. But the laughs end up coming unintentionally as the weirdness of these children who march around in unison is more corny that scary.
As for the acting well it's a case of solid but unremarkable from a series of recognizable faces. Christopher Reeve delivers the best performance as Dr. Chaffee but never manages to make his character more than 2 dimensional which in fact is the same that can be said of Linda Kozlowski who plays one of the children's mothers. Then there is Kirstie Alley whose attempts to make her character Dr. Susan Verner mysterious end up almost pantomime like and sadly Michael ParÃ© barely gets any screen time. But it is Mark Hamill who ends up being the most memorable and that is probably down to Luke Skywalker playing a man of the cloth, it's just comical despite Hamill's attempts to deliver the drama of his character.
As for those young children such as Thomas Dekker who plays David and Lindsey Haun who plays Mara well unfortunately they fail to be frightening which is more to do with the make up and hair than their acting.
What this all boils down to is that "Village of the Damned" ends up another of John Carpenter's movies which fail to impress. It struggles to be really frightening with most of the scares ending up far too telegraphed and it almost seems unsure as to whether it wants to be funny or not. The end result is that it is funny but far too often for the wrong reasons most notably the plain comical weirdness of the young expressionless children with their platinum blond hair.