Horror review: Village of the Damned

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 4, 1995

By Steve Newton

It’s hard being a proud horror fan in 1995, when movies based on the works of genre kings Dean Koontz and Clive Barker turn out to be as lame as Hideaway and Candyman 2, respectively. Then you’ve got former terror titan Tobe (Poltergeist) Hooper directing such shameful schlock as the Stephen King–spawned The Mangler.

Now John Carpenter, the man who scared the pants off us with Halloween, The Fog, and The Thing, has been reduced to casting heroic has-beens such as Chris (Superman) Reeve and Mark (Star Wars) Hamill in an embarrassing remake of the 1960 sci-fi thriller Village of the Damned.

Is there no hope at all for fear fanatics?

In this new (Value) Village, Reeve plays the town doctor of Midwich, a coastal California village where everything is just peachy keen until one fine day when, in the midst of preparing for a big picnic, everybody suddenly passes out for six hours. Folks fall asleep at the wheel, cows keel over in fields, and one poor fellow slumps over a barbecue while cooking hot dogs for the feast.

Just as secretive federal epidemiologist Dr. Susan (“It’s like Turner with a V”) Verner (Kirstie Alley) shows up to investigate the incident, everybody comes to, except the well-done guy on the barbie and the odd traffic fatality, among them the husband of nice schoolteacher Jill McGee (Crocodile Dundee’s Linda Kozlowski). Soon Widow McGee and nine other local women—including a self-proclaimed virgin—are diagnosed as pregnant, and before you can say “The aliens did it” they give birth, all at once, to nine platinum-blond but otherwise normal-looking babies.

The emotionless, mind-reading brood of white-haired brats eventually wreaks havoc on any of the townsfolk who even think about messing with them. As the kids mature, their supernatural powers develop, and they go from making grown-ups plunge their own arms into boiling water to making them drive pickups into gas tanks and impale themselves on broomsticks.

The physical violence is always foretold by the glowing of the kids’ eyeballs, an effect that might have been spooky 35 years ago but is hardly special anymore.

Without giving the ending away, let’s just say that Reeve’s character finds a bit of that old Superman courage when challenging the alien offspring’s plan for world domination, and that he does his very best acting while thinking really, really hard about a brick wall. I was only jolted once during the entire film—but the real shock came afterward, when I noticed that a woman filing out of the premiere screening beside me had actually marked her rating card with an “excellent” grade.

When I whispered the news to my girlfriend, she pulled off one of those Damned kids’ tricks by reading my mind in a flash and pronouncing my very own thoughts, word for word: “Oh man, she should get out more.”

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