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VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 3, 2016

Editor’s note: John Carpenter’s remake of the classic 1960 British thriller ‘Village of the Damned’ was not one of my favorites, as you’ll see by my April 28, 1995, Deseret News review, but it does have a following. So for those who love it, The Shout! Factory has upgraded the film for its Blu-ray debut.

John Carpenter, who once trashed the great ’50s sci-fi thriller “The Thing” with a ridiculously gory remake, now similarly updates the 1960 horror melodrama “Village of the Damned.”

The results are the same. In fact, this one makes Carpenter’s “The Thing” look better.

Carpenter’s “Village” isn’t as gory as his version of “The Thing” — but it is perhaps his most superficial work to date, with plot holes, lapses in logic and horribly underdeveloped characters.

The trappings in this “Village” are essentially the same. A mysterious, unexplainable happenstance causes everyone in the small town of Midwich (this time in California instead of England) to pass out for six hours. When they awaken, 10 women in town are pregnant — including a young teenage virgin and a woman whose husband has been out of town for a year. (Here are some plot developments that cry out for probing but are instead simply shunted aside.)

Meanwhile, a sinister government scientist (performed stiffly by Kirstie Alley) monitors the townfolk, the pregnancies, and later, the children, while the town doctor (Christopher Reeve) tries to figure out what’s going on.

      

The mothers all give birth the same night. One child is stillborn, but the other nine prove to have the same DNA structure and, as they grow older, look remarkably alike (pale, emotionless, with straight silver hair and glowing eyes). They also develop telepathic abilities, which are used primarily to drive their parents to suicide.

And in the end, for some unsatisfactorily explained reason, that old catchall evil — government conspiracy — rears its ugly head.

In truth, however, everything here is unsatisfactory. Aside from Dr. Reeve and schoolmarm Linda Kozlowski (“ ‘Crocodile’ Dundee”), every character here is underdeveloped. And the cast is dotted with familiar faces (Mark Hamill as a preacher, Michael Pare as Kozlowski’s husband) but none of them have anything to do. (Perhaps none get worse treatment than Meredith Salenger, however, whose character of the virgin teen is handled quite idiotically.)

     

Carpenter signals early on that he plans to make this version gorier and more violent. But crashing cars becoming redundant fireballs aren’t enough to keep audience interest.

Of all the old horror movies, “Village of the Damned,” would seem to have the most potential as a contemporary remake. But it is instead one of Carpenter’s worst efforts.

“Village of the Damned” is rated R for considerable violence, some gore and a few scattered profanities.