Village of the Damned
Dir. John Carpenter (1995)
After an entire town falls into a six hour coma, the women find themselves giving birth to strange children who may or may not be (but totally are) aliens.
The idea of visitation by alien life forms has always intrigued people, with recorded stories of visiting extraterrestrials going all the way back to 1639. While it can be scary to imagine alien beings coming from the stars, perhaps the most terrifying piece of the lore is the potential for these visitors to take us up into their spacecraft and run experiments on us. This violation, the ultimate lack of autonomy, is present in so many alien stories, giving them an aspect of defilement that is often not present in other tales of horror or suspense. Village of the Damned takes that a step farther, not only involving forced impregnation and the violation of the body but telekinesis and the violation of the mind as well.
John Carpenter's second remake (after The Thing) starts off with a bang, with the town of Midwich falling into a coma for exactly six hours. After they awaken, almost all of the women in town are pregnant, and they shortly thereafter give birth to an army of blonde-haired, blue-eyed children (of the damned). Once the children begin to grow, they show that they have the ability to read minds and force the adults to do their bidding, often by forcing them to injure or even kill themselves simply for entertainment value or as punishment for wronging one of the extraterrestrial brood. As the town begins to learn what the children are all about , it's up to local doctor Alan Chafee (Christopher Reeve in his last role before becoming paralyzed) and government doctor Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley) to stop them.
Carpenter is at his best when he takes aim at societal issues, and Village of the Damned can easily be dissected to do so with many different sociopolitical problems that we still face today. Whether it's the dangers of groupthink, the potential for conservative thought to overtake society, or the government's assault on bodily autonomy, VotD is a terrifying scenario to imagine. They know these creatures don't have their best interest at heart, they know that they are in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and the enemy has the ultimate power over them to prevent anything that would even come close to escape. The fact that the aliens have taken the form of children, the one type of human that the others have a biological imperative to protect, is nefarious and incredibly effective: even those who understand what is going on struggle to do anything to change it because their adversaries are literal children.
While Village of the Damned is far from Carpenter's best work, it is delightfully creepy and a much better movie that it gets credit for. The actors, especially the ones playing the kids, do a phenomenal job. The kills are gnarly and excellent, despite the film having little in the way of gore or on-screen violence. The children, with their mirrored appearance and their creepy glowing eyes, are the perfect villains for a regular rural American town with no real means to protect themselves. I'd like to see a hard-R remake of this one, because I think that you really could've made it even more terrifying than it was. But as a throwback to the days of black-and-white horror and fairly uninspired special effects, it's not half bad, and it's a great addition to any Halloween lineup.
Who this movie is for: Carpenter buffs, Creepy kid lovers, Aryans
Bottom line: Village of the Damned is creepy, effective, and has sociopolitical messages that feel all the more relevant today. The children all do a fantastic job, and we get a great performance from Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, and Mark Hamill. It's far from the best John Carpenter movie, but it's an adequate and entertaining watch as part of your spooky season viewing schedule. If you haven't seen it, I can confirm it's way better than most of the critics say, and you should definitely check it out.