The Film: (3/5)
The coastal town of Midwich is affected by a malady which causes everyone to fall asleep. Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve- Noises Off!, Deathtrap) discovers after they wake up that an inordinate number of women that were affected are pregnant, including his wife. The government, headed by Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley- Look Who's Talking, Look Who's Talking Too) swoops in with an offer to 'help' with the unborn children, paying expenses and ultimately studying them. Nine months later, the children are born, except for one that is stillborn, and all have white hair, pale skin and are extremely intelligent, while emotionally cold and distance. All of them except for David (Thomas Dekker- Laid To Rest, Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2) son of Jill McGowan (Linda Kozlowski- Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee II) because the children pair up and David's partner child was the stillborn.
The children exhibit psychic and mind control powers, their eyes glowing different colors corresponding to different powers. David longs for his missing partner and in the process becomes more empathetic. Meanwhile Mara, daughter of Dr. Chaffee drives her mother to suicide and leads the group of children in terrorizing their parents and anyone who stands in their way, causing people to burn themselves, blind themselves, in an attempt to inflict pain on the ones that caused pain to them in everyday situations. We soon find out that the children are only one colony of many across the world and are of alien origin. The town puts Chaffee in charge of devising a plan to kill the children after an attempt by the National Guard goes horribly wrong. Will the children see the error of their way? Will Alan be able to hide his thoughts from the children long enough to put the plan into action?
John Carpenter's Village Of The Damned is pretty much the nadir of John Carpenter's career, critically and commercially. There. That's out of the way. Is it Halloween? Prince Of Darkness? Even the preceding year's In The Mouth Of Madness? No to all these questions. I don't dispute that. But it's not the crapfest that I have seen it described as on the internet either. It's a sleepy film in parts which lines up very well with the actual surroundings the film takes place in. It's very much a return to the environs seen in The Fog, although not nearly as good obviously. Sadly, it's the last film that Reeve starred in before his accident so it may hold some negative connotations in that respect. Relatively bloodless but with good special effects work it holds up as a nice piece of mid 90's horror. The 90's were relatively lean on the horror front and Village Of The Damned may in fact not be as bad as you remember it. Or you may hate it. Either way Scream Factory has done horror fans a service with this release.
Scream Factory presents Village of The Damned in a 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that looks better than the previous dvd release. I've found that many films of it's vintage don't look as sharp as I would hope but this one is pretty good. Good grain structure and solid blacks are found here while it looks slightly washed out at times. There's nothing going on to prevent a purchase however. Nice clean transfer.
Audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and it is robust, dialogue, soundtrack and sound effects all come through very strong. English subtitles are provided.
Scream Factory loads up the disc with excellent extras. A new 45 minute documentary that takes a look back at the making of the film is very informative as is a 45 minute interview with Peter Jason that recounts his 7 appearances in the films of John Carpenter. Jason comes off as very likable and really sells the entertaining and informative anecdotes he tells. These two together really give an insight into what could have been. Sean Clark takes us to Inverness, California to see shooting sites in Horror's Hallowed Grounds. A theatrical trailer and a stills gallery are also included along with vintage interviews and behind the scenes looks. Great job here, Scream Factory.
I like John Carpenter's Village Of The Damned. I know that it isn't top tier Carpenter but I find that it has a mid 90's charm to it. Coming off of a late triumph with In The Mouth Of Madness, I can easily believe that contemporary viewers were disappointed. The film was taken away from Carpenter in editing, the result of studio meddling. I can't say that his vision for the film would have resulted in a stronger, better film, but I can't say it wouldn't have been either. That is lost to time. I recommend this film to Carpenter fans as we'll probably not see a better version in a while, if ever. Fans of mid 90's horror could do a lot worse as well. I know it's not a popular opinion to like this film. I drew the assignment because I've taken up for it in the past. Carpenter himself isn't very excited about the film, in fact he doesn't seem to care about it at all. (His wife, producer Sandy King, does seem to be though.) Carpenter wanted to do a remake of Creature Of The Black Lagoon for Universal, while they wanted an updated retelling of Village Of The Damned. Neither got what they wanted as Carpenter stayed fairly true to the original, minor changes aside, and Carpenter never got his Black Lagoon film. The film bombed and Carpenter went on to Vampires, a film that did turn a profit and does have it's share of champions, while Village has, uh, me? There are more like me out there, not enough to spark a critical reappraisal mind you, but maybe enough to raise it's profile a tiny bit. Which is all the defenders of Village are looking for. Hey! "Village isn't TERRIBLE," is the mild response we hope to get from our sci-fi horror brethren and sisters. One day. Scream Factory goes a ways to accomplish that.