Born to be bad
By Teresa Gubbins
Its hard to pin down the exact moment when you know that VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is going to have you sweating bullets, on the floor.
Theres the seemingly idyllic town of Midwich, Calif., impeccably photographed, perfect in a 50s kind of way. Too perfect.
Theres the disturbing sight of an entire town, stilled; every man, woman, dog and cow temporarily rendered lifeless by a mysterious entity.
And theres the films first good, shrieking scare (what, you think Im telling you?), a delicious fake-out tossed out fairly early, a gift, delivered with a smack and a wink.
HALLOWEEN director John Carpenter is back with an old-fashioned thriller thats not only satisfying for its scare value but is also simply a well-made, beautiful-to-watch film.
VILLAGE is a remake of a 1960 British film by the same name, adapted from "The Midwich Cuckoos," a novel by science fiction author John Wyndham (he also wrote "Day of the Triffids," a horror classic).
After an unexplained spell is cast over the small coastal town of Midwich, the women, including one virgin, mysteriously become pregnant. Nine children with eerie, identical white hair and blue eyes are born. Most of the women are pleased until the childrens supernatural, destructive powers become evident, and the town is never the same again.
Christopher Reeve yes, Superman is aptly cast as the towns doctor; his strong, physical presence and clean-cut wholesomeness instantly convey fatherly heroism. Linda Koslowski (Mrs. CROCODILE DUNDEE) is the storys equally warm, motherly counterpart.
Each becomes single parent to a child (their mates fall by the wayside): Reeve is father to Mara, the unreachable child-leader, while Kozlowski is mother to David, the one child who develops feelings. Its plotting on a grand, classic level and makes for an exciting, not to mention slam-bang ending.
Kirstie Alley plays a secretive but dedicated government epidemiologist who must remain cold and unreadable, in order to elude the childrens telepathic abilities.
And lets hear it for the resuscitation of Mark Hamill, STAR WARS' Luke Skywalker, here cast as the towns clergyman.
What VILLAGE is not, is a cheesy old horror flick. The opening shots depict an achingly beautiful sunset that spells out the filmmakers care and expense. And while Carpenter delivers on the thrills, he does so in a light-handed, classy, old-style manner; never actually showing the gore and, instead, letting you imagine it all yourself.
Special effects are impressive, the piercing laser eyes of the children created by Industrial Light & Magic. But even the low-tech touches are deft, with small elements such as the childrens monochromatic gray wardrobes making a strong statement.
Carpenter fans will want to watch closely at the beginning; the shaggy-haired director makes an un-credited cameo, a la Hitchcock, standing at a phone booth, his back to the camera.