Village of The Damned

November 12, 2009
Throughout horror cinema, children have always seemed to have a certain impact on the genre - to the point in which the "creepy horror kid" has become a stereotype of the genre. Even famous directors such as Stanley Kubrick have used the "creepy kid", such as in his film The Shining, making the little boy creepier than he was in Stephen King's original novel, and - to an extent - the baby from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where exactly this trend started, I can't say I exactly know for certain. However, a British film released in 1960 took the stereotype and definitely made it work - Village of The Damned.

Our story literally begins with everyone in the small town of Midwich fainting for no apparent reason, cutting off all contact with the outside world. Several attempts are made to enter and make contact with Midwich, only for those attempting to faint just as all the others in town have done. Eventually, the town regains consciousness without explanation as to how or why they all fell unconscious at the same time. Trying to put the Midwich horror behind them, the citizens move on with their lives as they always had. That is, until one day all the women of the village are discovered to be pregnant, with no explanation as to why. Nine moths after the fainting spell of the citizens, the women all give birth to blond-haired, beautiful children. Slowly, though, what starts as a blessing turns into a nightmare as the children develop at an accelerated rate, suggesting their inhumanity.

What's interesting about the film is that it's never revealed what, exactly, the children are. They can read minds, manipulate peoples' minds, but the mystery of the blond-haired and of fair-speeched children is never explained. It's possible it could be an alien invasion, as one scientist suggests after finding other colonies of the children across the world. It's also suggested that the children are simply the next stage in evolution, and that they should be just as respected as they are feared.

What the film is excellent, in terms of science fiction, the whole "horror" element felt very tacked on. The children's mind-controlling stare, as well as the buzzing music behind it, while genuinely creepy, felt attached in order that people might see the movie merely because it was a horror film. This is also reflected in the film's title, Village of the Damned, as if to suggest devils, witchcraft, or ghosts are involved in the movie.

The acting quality of the film is rather mixed, with some great performances by George Sanders - actor extraordinaire and plays the main character Gordon - and the "leader" of the children, Gordon's supposed son David. The rest of the cast gives some alright performances, but nothing particularly memorable really.

That said, the way the film was shot was incredibly ahead of its time, with the camera getting some very great shots whenever the children were involved. The tension of the film is also great, as you wonder how can mankind stop creatures that can read thoughts, control minds, and crash planes? It seems hopeless, and you can oftentimes feel that hopelessness in the characters, as well as how the camera portrays the children - always together, using shots that make them seem like adults, wearing black when in public, and last but not least - the stare.

While it does give in to some cheesy B-horror cliches, Village of The Damned is a well-structured and tense science fiction tale that's worth at least one viewing.

7/10 - Good





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