×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Village of the Damned

"Village of the Damned" is a risible remake of the British 1960 sci-fi classic. With John Carpenter at the helm, potential seemed to be there for a scary and dramatically legitimate updating of John Wyndham's story of ghastly albino kids with glowing eyes who create mayhem in a small town.

With:
Alan Chaffee - Christopher Reeve Dr. Susan Verner - Kirstie Alley Jill McGowan - Linda Kozlowski Frank McGowan - Michael Pare Melanie Roberts - Meredith Salenger Rev. George - Mark Hamill Mrs. Sarah Miller - Pippa Pearthree Ben Blum - Peter Jason Callie Blum - Constance Forslund Barbara Chaffee - Karen Kahn David - Thomas Dekker Mara - Lindsey Haun Carlton - Buck Flower

“Village of the Damned” is a risible remake of the British 1960 sci-fi classic. With John Carpenter at the helm, potential seemed to be there for a scary and dramatically legitimate updating of John Wyndham’s story of ghastly albino kids with glowing eyes who create mayhem in a small town. But awful scripting and an unimaginative approach to re-imagining material’s potential have left Universal with a theatrical in-and-outer on its hands.

Times certainly have changed since MGM produced the original low-budget, black-and-white quickie about malevolent children mysteriously born at the same time who employ superior cerebral skills and mental telepathy to gain the upper hand over adults. Thirty-five years ago, tale was read as an allegory for a sinister Communist takeover and the Catholic church was so incensed by the plot element of virgin birth that it condemned the picture.

With those concerns now irrelevant, it would have seemed incumbent upon Carpenter and screenwriter David Himmelstein to develop a new angle from which to view the threat posed by these enfants terribles. But unlike, for instance, the subversively anti-Reaganite undercurrents in Carpenter’s 1988 “They Live,” there are no unsettling frissons here to lend any dimension to the minimal surface thrills of the kids asserting mind control over normal citizens by staring at them with radiating eyeballs.

Set-up is moderately effective, as the town of Midwich, a small Northern California community (lensed in Inverness and Point Reyes, where Carpenter previously shot “The Fog”), is hit by a mysterious force that knocks out the entire population for six hours. Soon thereafter, 10 women in town turn up pregnant, resulting in a mass birthing supervised by local medic Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) and brash outside scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley).

By the time they are a few years old, the kids — who sport platinum hair (the wigs on the girls are particularly obvious) and dour expressions — begin sticking together, walking two-by-two in formation, being taught in special classes and exercising practice sessions in domination. The ringleader, Mara (Lindsey Haun), a particularly formidable little girl, is Chaffee’s daughter, and when Mara trains her glowing green-then-red eyes on her mother, Mom obediently jumps off a cliff into the Pacific.

More suicides-on-command follow but, just as the kids prepare to seize control, Chaffee figures out a way to thwart their brain-penetrating powers and do them in. Pic ends with a big closeup that immediately suggests the potential for a sequel but, unlike the original, which was succeeded by the inferior “Children of the Damned,” there will be little clamor for a follow-up to this one.

Pic’s one notable adjustment lies in shifting more importance to the women in the story, which would have been a fine idea were it not for the silly roles they have to play and the atrocious dialogue they have to speak. Alley’s high-handed interloper is just the sort of imperious smarty-pants audiences like to see cut down to size, while the mother characters, understandably concerned about their weird offspring, are all dully directed to the same level of neurotic anxiety. Sex change of the top-dog tiny tyrant works well.

Male thesps, including Reeve as the perturbed doc and Mark Hamill as an overwrought cleric, don’t fare any better.

Special effects, mostly repetitive uses of the glowing-eye routine, are good enough, but pic relies far too much on shock cuts and heavily amplified use of synthesized score for impact.

Popular on Variety

Village of the Damned

Production: A Universal release of an Alphaville production. Produced by Michael Preger, Sandy King. Executive producers, Ted Vernon, Shep Gordon, Andre Blay. Co-producer, David Chackler. Co-executive producers, James Jacks, Sean Daniel. Directed by John Carpenter. Screenplay, David Himmelstein, based on the book "The Midwich Cuckoos" by John Wyndham and the 1960 screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, George Barclay.

Crew: Camera (Foto-Kem color; Panavision widescreen), Gary B. Kibbe; editor, Edward A. Warschilka; music, Carpenter, Dave Davies; production design, Rodger Maus; art direction, Christa Munro; set decoration, Don De Fina, Rick Brown; sound (DTS stereo), Thomas Causey; visual effects supervisor, Bruce Nicholson; special visual effects, Industrial Light & Magic; special makeup effects, K.N.B. EFX Group; assistantdirector, Artist Robinson; second unit director, Jeff Imada; second unit camera, Arthur R. Botham; casting, Reuben Cannon. Reviewed at the Avco Cinema, L.A., April 26, 1995. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 98 min.

With: Alan Chaffee - Christopher Reeve Dr. Susan Verner - Kirstie Alley Jill McGowan - Linda Kozlowski Frank McGowan - Michael Pare Melanie Roberts - Meredith Salenger Rev. George - Mark Hamill Mrs. Sarah Miller - Pippa Pearthree Ben Blum - Peter Jason Callie Blum - Constance Forslund Barbara Chaffee - Karen Kahn David - Thomas Dekker Mara - Lindsey Haun Carlton - Buck Flower

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content