John Carpenter’s take on the Midwich Cuckoo’s tale is next up in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, and boasts a pretty fine cast in the form of Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Marlk Hamill, Linda Kozlowski and Michael Pare.
The location has been changed to small town America, but the basis of the story remains the same. A group of small town women find themselves inexplicably pregnant, and their off-spring, all blonde-haired seem to boast strange powers that allows them to overtake the town, and keep everyone under their control.
Midwich (pop. 2000) is a small family oriented town, it has a preacher, Reverend George (Hamill), a pretty school principal, Jill McGowan (Kozlowski) and a local doctor, Alan Chaffee (Reeve). When the entire town collapses, and falls unconscious, Chaffee is intrigued, as if a federal doctor, Susan Verner (Alley).
But things get really strange when after they all wake, all the child-bearing women are pregnant.
Unlike his superior update of The Thing From Another World, Village of the Damned doesn’t add much new to the film that hadn’t been in it before. There are lifts of dialogue from the original film, and the pacing and the beats are similar, with the only real difference being a little bit more in the way of explicit violence.
There are some nice updates including Verner coming in to pitch to all of the families that they see the pregnancies to term, by promising free prenatal care, and a handsome monthly allowance. As long as they allow the government to subject their children to tests.
When the kids are born they show unusual aptitudes from the off, and we also get a hint (a little more boldly than in the original film) that aliens are involved. In the original it is suggested, perhaps hinted at, this film, visually, tells us that it very much is an extraterrestrial experiment. The government is almost equally insidious in this version, as Verner seems to have her own agenda. But still, none of this is enough to make it standout from the original film.
As an aside, I do like the special effects on the eyes in this film, it works, and looks much better than the tweak given to still photographs like what was done in the original.
In typical Carpenter fashion, events spin out of control, small and unnervingly at first (as Hamill’s Reverend starts to lose his mind and believe in the evil that he believes exists in the children), before snowballing, all while Chaffee and the town try to figure out what is going on and how to deal with it.
Other additions include young David (Thomas Dekker) trying to understand humanity, and specifically empathy, while the rest of the new children are quite happy to exist as who they are, and slowly controlling those around them.
An unnecessary update, sadly, that didn’t bring us anything really new to the story, but does have a good cast, and Carpenter’s touch.