Village of the Damned (1995 film)
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John Carpenter's Village of the Damned is a 1995 American science fiction-horror film directed by John Carpenter and a remake of the 1960 film of the same name which in turn is based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. The 1995 remake is set in Northern California, whereas the book and original film were both set in the United Kingdom. The 1995 film was marketed with the tagline, "Beware the Children", and stars Christopher Reeve (in his last walking film role before being paralyzed), Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Mark Hamill, and Meredith Salenger.
|Village of the Damned|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Produced by||Michael Preger
|Screenplay by||David Himmelstein
John Carpenter (uncredited)
|Based on||The Midwich Cuckoos
by John Wyndham
|Music by||John Carpenter
|Cinematography||Gary B. Kibbe|
|Edited by||Edward A. Warschilka|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$9.4 million (domestic)|
All of the people, animals and birds within the quiet coastal town of Midwich in California's Marin County fall unconscious for six hours one day at exactly 10am. Following this "blackout", ten females are mysteriously pregnant, including a virgin as well as a married woman who has not been sexually active for months. None of the women seek abortions, and later all the babies are born simultaneously on one night - five boys and five girls, though one female is stillborn. The children are all healthy and sound, but have pale skin, unusually soft, flat-sided platinum blonde hair; fierce intellect, and cobalt eyes. However, they do not appear to possess a conscience or personalities. The children display eerie psychic abilities that can result in violent and deadly consequences whenever they experience pain or provocation.
The children soon "pair off", except for one of the boys, David, whose intended partner was the stillborn girl. As a result of this imbalance, David is the runt of the group. Although he resembles the other children and retains some degree of psychic power, David is smaller, and is unlike the rest of the children in that he has a capacity for human emotion, and compassion. He and his mother Jill McGowan (the local school teacher) share a brief conversation about this, displaying empathy and remorse.
The children's leader is Mara, the daughter of a local physician, Dr. Alan Chaffee. Even as a baby, Mara exhibited vengeful tendencies with regard to the use of her abilities, using her mind to force her mother to boil her arm in hot soup and commit suicide by jumping off the cliff. The children, who are by now known to have a hive mind, eventually move to the local barn as their classroom and for survival.
Soon it is learned that there are other colonies of blackout children in foreign countries, but due to their inhuman nature they were quickly eliminated, in some cases at the cost of destroying the entire town. The scientific team in Midwich quickly flee the town to escape the growing chaos. Government scientist, Dr. Susan Verner, is forced to show the children the preserved stillborn baby she secretly kept to study, and the preserved corpse is seen to be undeniably alien. The children collectively force her to fatally stab herself. An angry mob gathers to kill the children, but the leader is forced to set herself on fire and burns to death, and later the state police are mentally controlled into shooting each other in a chaotic gun battle.
In order to rid the town of the children, Alan devises a plan: to detonate a briefcase of timed explosives inside the children's classroom. By thinking of a brick wall, he is able to create a mental barrier and keep the presence of the time-bomb a secret from the children. Jill begs him to spare David because he is not like the others. Alan attempts to do this by asking David to leave the classroom to get his notebook from his car. The children begin to suspect that Alan is hiding something, and they slowly "destroy" the wall. Finally, Jill shows up, but the children stop her and attempt to use mind control. David, tired of this, rushes to her defense and knocks Mara over. The children turn on David, but Jill rushes him from the building. As soon as the children discover that Alan is hiding his knowledge of the bomb, it detonates in an enormous explosion, killing Alan and the eight alien children.
Jill and David, however, are safe in a car fleeing the site; she says that they will both move to a place where nobody knows them. David looks off into the distance as they drive away.
Unlike its predecessor, the film was shot in widescreen color. Lloyd Paseman of the Eugene Register-Guard said that the shooting in widescreen color and the fact that major actors such as Christopher Reeve, Mark Hamill and Kirstie Alley were a part of the film made it so that the film was "anything but cheap". Additional graphic violence was added in the remake; the children cause one adult to kill herself by cutting herself open with a surgical knife and another has an adult immolate herself.
John Carpenter moved the story from England to Northern California and set it in the contemporary time period. He gave female characters larger roles in the story.
If the children apply moderate psychic powers, their pupils have the appearances of red or green-flecked pupils, and the color becomes a bright white when they apply strong psychic powers.
Charlotte Gravenor, the hairstylist, bleached the hair of the actors who played the children, and then applied white hairspray to their hair. This made them appear like aliens. Bruce Nicholson and Greg Nicotero applied a special effect where the eye pupil colors change when the children seize control of the adults.
- Christopher Reeve as Dr. Alan Chaffee, the Midwich town doctor
- Kirstie Alley as Dr. Susan Verner, an epidemiologist working for the federal Government of the United States, who investigates the mass pregnancies
- Linda Kozlowski as Jill McGowan, a widow who becomes the mother of David
- Michael Paré as Frank McGowan, Jill's husband
- Meredith Salenger as Melanie Roberts, a virgin whose baby is stillborn
- Mark Hamill as Reverend George, the town minister
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In addition to being a failure at the box office, the film received mediocre critical response. Based on 34 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Village of the Damned holds a 29% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 3.9 out of 10. In 1996, the film was nominated at the 16th Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel.
Lloyd Paseman of the Eugene Register-Guard said that while the remake did not attempt to make Village of the Damned "something" that its predecessor was not, the film had "mediocre" dialogue and plot development. He gave it two stars out of four. Paseman also remarked that in this film Reeve made an "earnest" attempt, that Kozlowski did the highest quality acting for the film, that Dekker was "credible," and that Hamill was "badly miscast."
Janet Maslin of the New York Times was more enthusiastic, regarding it as "John Carpenter's best horror film in a long while". The remake was "mostly more sly than frightening..restaging the original story with fresh enthusiasm and a nice modicum of new tricks."
In a 2011 interview Carpenter described the film as a "contractual assignment" which he was "really not passionate about".
- "Village of the Damned domestic gross", www.thenumbers.com. Retrieved 09-14-2015.
- Paseman, Lloyd. "Village Of The Damned' Has Mediocre Plot, Acting." Eugene Register-Guard. Friday May 5, 1995. 10F. Retrieved from Google News (28 of 28) on April 7, 2013.
- Village of the Damned (1995). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- Wilson, John (2000-08-23). "1995 Archive". Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- Maslin, Janet. "FILM REVIEW; Demons' Eye Problems Compound Creepiness".
- "The Soft-Spoken John Carpenter on How He Chooses Projects and His Box-Office Failures". 6 July 2011.
- "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.