Monday, 29 October 2018

Mubi Monday: Village Of The Damned (1995)

The second reworking of classic sci-fi horror material by director John Carpenter, this is much less successful than his previous attempt. Perhaps it's because the original was already a pretty perfect adaptation of the John Wyndham novel, "The Midwich Cuckoos", or perhaps it was just too lacklustre in all departments, from cast to cinematography, through to score and direction.

You will probably already know the plot. A small village is temporarily knocked out. Completely. Everyone just passes out, and anyone trying to enter just passes out as soon as they step within a certain radius of the location. Then everyone wakes up, and nothing seems different. It becomes clear, however, that all of the females who can bear children have become pregnant. And when those children are born they are all very similar in their physical characteristics. And they share the ability to read the minds of the people around them. Not only that, they can influence people to do things, even if that leads to self-harm or death for the person being controlled. Someone has to stop them, but it may already be too late.

Village Of The Damned is not a BAD film, not exactly. It's certainly not the worst from Carpenter, but the titles in his filmography that rank below this at least had some interesting ideas and imagination, even if the execution of the material was flawed. This is just a film that feels exactly like what it was, a contractual obligation. It's hard to think of a better way to update this material but I am sure there is one. There has to be a better approach than just taking the main plot points and including some moments of unimpressive violence and death.

I always enjoy seeing Christopher Reeve onscreen (this was the last film he completed before the horse riding accident that left him paralysed) and this is another role that makes use of his stoic nature and dependability. He's really the only lead character who remains interesting throughout, with anyone else - Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Hamill, etc - either hampered by the script or their unsuitability to the roles assigned to them. Thankfully, there's a great little turn from the legend that is George 'Buck' Flower and the kids are all easy enough to dislike, even if they often emanate an air of irritability rather than pure evil.

This is TV movie stuff when it should have been much better. It's not as if Carpenter wouldn't be a fan of this kind of material, making it all the more surprising that he didn't try to put more of a stamp on the script, credited to David Himmelstein, and either update the material in a much smarter way or use the central idea as a springboard for something that diverted further from the source novel.

It's not a painful viewing experience, but that's really the best thing I can say about it. It's arguably the worst film in Carpenter's filmography, because at least the other films that could be nominated for that title had some imagination and atmosphere to them. They felt like John Carpenter films, even as they started to fall apart. This doesn't.


This mediocre movie can be bought here.
Americans can buy it here.

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