VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)

Village of the Damned is pure John Carpenter. His update of the horror classic, a tale of the small town of Midwich and the demonic half-breed children who psychokinetically wreak havoc there, carries the indelible stamp of eerie camp horror that distinguished his earlier films: Prince of Darkness, They Live, and one of his first remakes, The Thing. Village provides the gory, schlocky, unnerving fun that made Carpenter a sci-fi/horror cult superstar.

As usual, Carpenter's political timeliness peppers the campy script. Similar to They Live, which answered the '80s with evil alien yuppies, Village of the Damned is a parable of the mid-1990's, laced with undertones of the abortion debate, family values, and religious extremism. Carpenter's Midwich, a mildly Tim Burton-esque Suburbatopia, acts as a "Smalltown USA" foil for Carpenter to exercise his anarchic wit.

Carpenter's irony in populating Midwich with "damned" stars (i.e. ones that fell off the map) is too acute not to be intentional (indeed, this irony becomes tragedy in light of the hero's paralyzing accident soon after the film was released.) Christopher Reeve, as Midwich's heroic doctor, proves he can still play a mean Superman, while Kirstie Alley hams it up as the chain-smokin', Sherlock Holmes-quotin' government scientist drawn into the fray. Even '80s camp veteran Michael Pare (Eddie and the Cruisers, The Philadelphia Experiment) makes a brief return. And who better to play the priest in a damned village than the unluckiest star alive, Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill?

Yes, Village is cheesy. This film emits gobs of cheese all over the audience. And, yes, this movie is grisly. Every time someone brandishes an object at the evil little brats, he or she soon ends up being forced to create a new orifice with it. Those who hate excess of blood and/or corn in their film will find Village anathema. But to the sci-fi/horror film lover who grew up on either John Carpenter or his cast, this film stands tall in his tradition of zany, B-movie fun.

[First Draft appeared in Harvard Independent, 1995.]

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