John Carpenter stands as one of the most unique directors in the history of cinema, particularly within the genres of science fiction and horror. With his diverse range of subjects and dystopian creations, he has carved a lasting niche in the hearts of film enthusiasts. In 1994, he solidified his place in horror film history with “In the Mouth of Madness.” Naturally, anticipation was high for his next project. Could he elevate the bar even further after such a successful film? Unfortunately, he couldn’t. “Village of The Damned” turned out to be one of Carpenter’s lackluster works, despite being a competent film. It flopped at the box office and even earned a nomination in the category of worst adaptation of the year, although it thankfully did not win that dubious accolade. Carpenter’s “Village of the Damned” is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, directed by Wolf Rilla. Being a remake worked to its disadvantage, and it fell short of expectations. However, it’s not as bad as some of its critics have portrayed it.
Let’s briefly delve into the plot. Imagine a tranquil town where, at a particular moment, whispers echo through the streets, and everyone in town suddenly loses consciousness. Every single person in the town, as well as those entering its borders, succumbs to this phenomenon. The town is swiftly quarantined by the authorities. The cause of this inexplicable mass fainting remains a mystery, but its effects become apparent: every woman in the city is pregnant. Law enforcement gets involved, but all the women decide to give birth to their babies. These children are not the innocent and sweet offspring they had imagined. The babies that arrive are all white-haired, pale-eyed, and excessively intelligent. They are far from ordinary children. As they grow, their influence over the town becomes increasingly pronounced. They behave more like adults than children, going out, talking, and even revealing their supernatural powers. These children, with their uncanny abilities, are not as endearing as they may seem.
John Carpenter has always had a knack for selecting unique and intriguing subject matter. When he saw a topic that piqued his interest and had elements of science fiction, he decided to revisit it. What sets Carpenter apart is his ability to craft compelling narratives without resorting to clichés. He’s an original director with a solid track record. His direction is also praiseworthy; the film is executed excellently, deserving a full score and a five-star rating. However, Carpenter’s decision to delve into remakes after “In the Mouth of Madness” might be the primary reason behind the lukewarm reception of this film.
Carpenter has continued to elevate the cinematography in his films. “Village of the Damned” is visually stunning with well-executed shots. It’s a flawless work from a technical standpoint. However, the film’s standout feature is its cast. Having children in leading roles can either make or break a film, and in this case, it seems to have done both. While I personally appreciate the children’s performances, it’s evident that they didn’t win over the general audience. In accordance with their roles, they portray pale, expressionless, and adult-like children, and they excel in coordinating their movements in a rhythmic and collective fashion. While the film’s choreography and mystique are initially captivating, Carpenter unfortunately fails to escalate the level of tension in the later scenes. The challenge he couldn’t overcome in “Village of the Damned” is the inability to effectively convey the eeriness of the children responsible for all the town’s peculiarities.
In essence, “Village of the Damned” fails to elevate the initially mysterious premise to the desired level of suspense. While it can be described as a generally successful film, its drawback lies in its unfortunate timing, releasing just a year after a horror classic like “In the Mouth of Madness.” After “Village of the Damned,” Carpenter’s career began a downward trajectory. Following the peak he reached with “In the Mouth of Madness,” the director started descending with small steps. Most of the films he put his signature on post-1995 are far from being memorable.
Cast & Crew
director: John Carpenter
writers: David Himmelstein
starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Pippa Pearthree, Peter Jason, Constance Forslund, Karen Kahn
USA | 1995 | 99 MINUTES |