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, it’s a movie we rate extremely high here at Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life. You can read our review here or watch our review below.
This remake? It doesn’t reach the high standards set even if it throws a few new ideas into the pot.
The plot is essentially the same but for those who haven’t seen the original, one day in the small town of Midwich every single person, animal and bird falls unconscious. This phenomenon lasts for 6 hours and as soon as it begun it ends with everyone waking up none the wiser. Much to the relief of Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve). He was out of town when it happened but his wife was one of the victims.
What happened is a mystery, one that deepens when ten of the women are found to be pregnant. A bit of an odd event especially as one of the women is a virgin. It’s clear to most that the event called ‘the blackout’ is the cause. At a town meeting, Dr. Susan Verner (Kirsty Alley) reveals that the government wants the women to have the children so they can study them. She offers all of them a huge amount of money which is enough to convince them to not have abortions.
Some time later all the women give birth at the same time. Five boys and five girls are born but one of the girls is stillborn, the daughter of Dr. Chaffee and his wife. This is a new development for the remake and has later significance as the children pair off. David (Thomas Dekker)’s partner was the stillborn girl and because of that he is unbalanced.
The rest of the children are cold and emotionless but David retains some form of compassion. This makes him the ‘runt’ of the group.
Like the original, each child bears similar features. Pale skin, blonde hair, bright eyes and they are super-intelligent with psychic abilities. This remake is a little more full-on showing the groups powers though and we get many a scene of them using their abilities to deadly consequences.
As time goes by it becomes clear that the children have a goal, one that could threaten all of humanity. Midwich wasn’t the only town that had a ‘blackout’ though and the governments of those places have started to eliminate them.
When news reaches Midwich the children plan to leave, forcing Dr. Chaffee to arrange their departure. During his conversation with them he makes the discovery that he can block them from reading his mind and devises a plan to stop them escaping. This leads to the famous ending the original did so very well.
It’s done well here too thanks to a really strong showing from Reeve but it just doesn’t have quite the same impact. Mainly because of the build during his attempts to teach the children the value of compassion. In the original this was handled expertly and shown without words, just expressions. Here, Reeve’s Dr. Chaffee fills every silence with words and constantly has a look of disdain on his face. From the moment he starts to teach the kids, it’s clear he can’t stand to be around them. This makes his final decision to deal with them far less impactful.
Not getting the ending right is the least of the movie’s problems though. There is some serious hit and miss acting with Mark Hamill as the town’s preacher being really questionable. It’s not that he’s terrible but rather he just doesn’t fit the role at all. Many of the side characters also come across cheesy and over the top, not helped by the iffy dialogue.
Whereas the original laid the tension on thickly, this remake doesn’t but smartly doesn’t really try. It would have been a mistake to try and replicate what the 1960 film achieved if it wasn’t manageable. Instead we get a bit more focus on horror, mild horror but horror none the less with more graphic death scenes.
This isn’t going to go down as one of the better John Carpenter directed films, although it being in colour gives it a bit more vibrancy. If you’d never seen the original and watched his first, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Which is a shame. It doesn’t butcher the original but doesn’t better it in any way.
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Village of the Damned - Remake