Based off the 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is a classic British science fiction horror movie released in 1960. A thrill ride from beginning to end, almost 60 years after its release, it still is an incredible watch.
The movie opens in the British village of Midwich where suddenly every single person falls unconscious no matter what they were doing. The phenomenon is completely unexplained and when the military find out they attempt to send a man in but he falls unconscious the moment he steps beyond the cordon. This even though he is wearing a gas mask.
The moment he is pulled back to safety, he wakes. However, he complains of being freezing cold just before he lost consciousness. Then, as instantly as it started, the event is over and the entire village wakes up. No-one knows how or why it happened and military tests show nothing.
Life moves on.
Then two months later, most of the women in the village discover they are pregnant. These are no ordinary pregnancies though as the fetuses grow at an extra ordinary rate. If all of that wasn’t enough to cause alarm, when the children are born (on the same day) their unusual look marks them out as being different. Most noticeably (especially as this is a black and white movie) are their bright, arresting eyes.
The children continue to grow at an abnormal rate and display incredible intelligence for children of their ages. They all also appear to have a psychic link, able to communicate with each other without speaking. Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders), whose wife Anthea (Barbara Shelley) gave birth to one of the children makes the discovery that Midwich was not the only place affected. The same events that befell the town occurred around the world.
As Zellaby looks further into the unnatural children, as well as his own son he begins to realise that their abilities could spell the end of mankind.
Village of the Damned is effectively creepy. Something that you wouldn’t expect to hold up well in the modern world of desensitised horror. It’s driven by the fear of the unknown. What occurred in Midwich and just who these children are is never explained. They lack the innocence of a child and their detached behaviour is haunting. A lot of this can be put down to performances as well as the general eerie atmosphere that accompanies every scene with the children.
Perhaps the most impressive performance though comes from Sanders. He is the voice of reason at first. Defensive of the children, eager to understand and study the children but eventually coming to the realisation that they need to be stopped.
This leads to a climactic scene that is simply horrifying and incredibly memorable. To spoil it would deprive you of one of the best sequences in horror ever.
It is certainly a movie of a time and it’s always odd to watch a film where a man slapping a woman because she is hysterical is commonplace. That sort of stuff is awkward to watch but beyond that Village of the Damned is a classic in every sense of the word. At only 77 minutes long, it’s an experience all horror fans must be part of!
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Village of the Damned