THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Village of the Damned (1995)
Directed by John Carpenter
“It has enough good moments to let this turd float.”
The Village of the Damned is an utter classic. It’s powerful, haunting, and plain weird. It helped usher in a new type of villain: the creepy kid! Ok, perhaps I should be clearer. The original 1960 film directed by Wolf Rilla is a classic. It’s still one effective ass movie. Instead, the focus of this Black Sheep is version directed by horror legend John Carpenter. He may be a classic, but this movie…not so much. However, that’s not to say it should be discounted. Far from it.
Village of the Damned is still a good movie with all the Carpenter traits fans expect and adore. Sure…it may not be his strongest effort. I seriously doubt it shows up on any top five (or top ten) list of Carpenter outings. Let’s face it…the movie should have been better considering he had experience recreating old films into something fresh (see The Thing from the 80’s, not the new one). Here, Carpenter doesn’t stray far from the source material. That’s not a horrendous thing, but perhaps more of an indicator that he had entered the “lazy faze” of his career.
So what makes this good? What makes it better than you probably remember? Moments. Yeah, moments. It has enough good moments to let this turd float. I love the moment where one of the little brats forces Christopher Reeve’s wife to shove her hand in a pot of boiling water. I dig the scene where an optometrist is forced to put painful eye drops in her own eyes! It’s great when the janitor goes nuts and tells off a classroom full of the silver haired freaks and is forced to jump off a roof with a broom pushed against his chest. I somehow never forgot the beginning where everyone passes out and some poor sucker lands on his grill. Moments, even small ones, can make a shit movie memorable and most of all, entertaining. And Village of the Damned is that (even if some scenes were from the first movie).
What’s also great is perhaps my favorite element of Carpenter: his score. It’s classic Carpenter creating a haunting, looming tone. I honestly believe his ability to score a film is second to none and is seriously underrated. He always created the perfect mood with an instrument normally more fit for a Corey Feldman feature. Along the same lines, Village of the Damned has the proper Carpenter look with long time cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe capturing the thing. But then there’s the acting, which I describe as less than stellar. The cast seems to try, but for the most part, it’s all laughable. Carpenter never used grade A actors (not counting Kurt and Jamie Lee). He preferred the lesser known. Yet with this one, he attempted to draw in the A, well B at least. With Christopher Reeve in the lead, he gives it the old boy scout try. Reeve, God bless him, has a voice that never evoked leading man for me. He wasn't ever an actor with depth. Mark Hamill will always be loved by fans, but let’s face it, there’s a reason the dude’s career never took off. It’s hard not to like him, but as a priest, he brings as much to the party as a crackhead would to a political debate. Ok, not the best analogy, but you get my point. Then there’s Kirstie Alley. Yeah, she’s awful. I should support her since she hails from my hometown of Wichita, Kansas, but I can’t do it. She does her best Lt. Saavik impersonation as Dr. Susan Verner except she doesn’t care about the role. It’s as if she glanced at the script moments before filming and didn’t bother to “act.”
Speaking of which let me blame the script, which has some of the shittest dialogue I’ve ever heard. Alley the scientist tells Reeve the doctor to read Sherlock Holmes to understand what’s going on…really. And then when the town looks to Reeve to teach the kids how to be nice, he asks, “What am I going to teach them?” A woman replies in hushed tone, “Humanity…humanity...” Listening to the actors deliver their lines causes enough eye rolls to make them roll right out of your head and dangle like a yo-yo. Even with my complaints and the really, really bad aspects of the movie, Village of the Damned is entertaining not only because it’s a Carpenter product, but because it has entertaining moments. And that's good enough for me.