Tuesday, December 14, 2010

John Carpenter's Village of the Damned (1995)

Tense, effective horror film about a small town that is host to a group of like-minded, grey-haired children that terrorize the town's adults. The film's structure is unconventional, beginning with a town-wide blackout that results in almost a dozen simultaneous pregnancies, and then tracking the pregnancies until the children are frightfully articulate pre-teens (some with personal briefcases). If the silliness of the premise does not turn one off, there is much moodiness on display here; the film has a slow, frightening, apocalyptic feeling that is absent from many similar horror films. This is primarily due to the efforts of Mr. Carpenter, who throws in interesting camera set-ups and iconic set pieces whenever he gets a chance (he's clearly a fan of The Omen). While his other 1995 film, In the Mouth of Madness, revolves around a Stephen King-type character, this is the more King-like film, with small town camaraderie going up against a mysterious, foreign entity that has sprung from, literally, in this case, their very loins. The success in mood can also be attributed to the surprisingly adept cast, which includes Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill(!), Michael Pare, and Carpenter regular Peter Jason; Reeve, in his last role before his crippling 1995 accident, is a surprisingly strong horror protagonist, standing out as his own character, while not betraying his role as the surrogate of the audience.

Recommended to fans of scary children horror films (this is one of the better ones, due to Carpenter's ability with kid actors), or of Mr. Carpenter, himself; while this is no Halloween or The Thing, it is stronger, if more conventional, than In the Mouth of Madness, which came out merely several months after this film.

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