Village of the Damned (1995)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Mark Hamill & Meredith Salenger
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
In Director John Carpenter’s (Halloween, The Thing) modernization of the 1960 British feature, Village of the Damned finds the small village of Midwich interrupted by unseen forces, leaving ten of the town’s women mysteriously pregnant. Joining together to uncover the truth behind the phenomenon, local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve, Superman) and government scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley, Look Who’s Talking) realize the birth of the bleach blonde children is only the beginning of Midwich’s troubles. Linda Kozlowski (Crocodile Dundee), Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Meredith Salenger (Lake Placid) co-star.
Retaining the town’s name but substituting its original British location for northern California, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned remains relatively close to its source material while, injecting subtle perspective changes through its narrative. Starring the late Christopher Reeve in his final role before his devastating paralyzation, Carpenter’s remake, unlike that of his reimagining of 1952’s The Thing from Another World, takes little creative risk in crafting a truly unique experience with character development for the film’s adult actors appearing stunted and uneven, indubitably caused by studio interference. Following Midwich’s bizarre blackout leaving ten women impregnated, the film attempts to shift focus onto single mother Jill McGowan (Kozlowski) and the weight of raising her peculiar newborn son and grieving over the loss of her husband. An inspired deviation from the original film, Village of the Damned unfortunately never affords the proper time to fully invest in its soon-to-be victims as attention is juxtaposed with scientist Dr. Susan Verner’s (Alley) own interest in the children’s development. Highly intelligent and appearing intendedly from another era, the blonde-haired younglings finesse their supernatural powers of mind control, prompting an increase of harrowing suicides in the community. With humanity all but lost on the majority of the sinister children, recently widowed local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Reeve) makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring stability to the human race.
Pronounced by Carpenter to be more a contractual obligation than a passion project, Village of the Damned offers strong performances from Reeve as Midwich’s good-natured doctor confronted with otherworldly forces while, Lindsey Haun (True Blood) as the clan’s evil leader and Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the only blonde child with a heart deliver both effective and emotional moments. Surely not as daring as other Carpenter efforts, Village of the Damned has aged better than expected, amid its developmental character struggles, to remain suitably entertaining.
Scream Factory presents Village of the Damned with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Featuring beautiful photography of its sunny, rural locations, colors are prominent with flesh tones appearing equally lush and finely detailed. In addition, the blindingly blonde hair of the film’s antagonists pop accordingly with black levels always appearing smooth and balanced. With no signs of damage and boasting an exceptionally filmic quality, Village of the Damned makes an impactful leap to high-def. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, Carpenter and Dave Davies of The Kinks’ music establish intended levels of eeriness. Suspenseful sound queues and explosive gunfire in the film’s third act also provide the mix with a strong depth that appropriately enhances the viewing experience. An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included. Rightly earning itself a spot in Scream Factory’s coveted Collector’s Edition series, plentiful special features include, It Takes a Village: The Making of John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (49:17). This top-notch featurette finds Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King, Special Make Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero and countless cast members reflecting on their experiences making the troubled film with nothing but warm memories and an overflow of behind-the-scenes info. In addition, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:58) finds host Sean Clark revisiting the original shooting locations today, The Go To Guy: Peter Jason on John Carpenter (45:13) sits down with the Carpenter regular as he reflects on his many collaborations with the famed director plus, Vintage Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes (24:40), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:59), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (23 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster round out another knockout spread of supplements for the horror sub label.
While not one of Carpenter’s finest moments but, by no means his worst, Village of the Damned has its setbacks yet, contains sizable levels of fun that likeminded viewers shouldn’t dismiss. With more studio support, Carpenter’s contractual obligation could have fared far better than originally received although, its final product has aged more gracefully than most modern remakes. In quite possibly their home video swan song to the director’s filmography, Scream Factory ensures an exceptional high-definition transfer and a glut of bonus features that will surely control viewers minds. Beware the children cautiously but, resisting Village of the Damned’s Collector’s Edition will be futile!