Village of the Damned Review (1995)

My History With the Film:
1995 was my breakout year for horror movies. I was eleven/twelve years old and my dad had already introduced me to Halloween and he wasn’t restricting the films that I rented anymore. If it looked scary, I rented it, and Village of the Damned was one of those films.

At the time, I had no idea who John Carpenter was, nor that he was the same man who directed Halloween, but I was sold on Village of the Damned thanks to Christopher Reeve and cool box art. Village of the Damned is rather tame and feels very much like one of those early-to-mid 90’s horror films with a side of John Carpenter styling/music. 

I rented Village of the Damned and taped it onto another VHS tape which my brother I watched dozens of times from 1996-1998. By then, I was done with Village of the Damned and had moved onto to other newer films. I actually forgot Village of the Damned existed until a couple years ago when I ran across the title and I put it on my list of films to revisit. After a lucky thrift store find, I came home with Village of the Damned and popped it in to see how it held up.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Everything alive in a small town passes out for a few hours. Nine months later, several women in the town gave birth to children who look similar and seem to share a collective mind.

What I Liked About It:
-Village of the Damned doesn’t feel like a typical John Carpenter movie, but every once in a while it dips into that “John Carpenter world” and I love that. The music also goes from boring but serviceable into badass John Carpenter synth in a matter of moments.

-I admittedly haven’t seen a lot of Christopher Reeve films outside of the Superman movies, but man was he a talented actor. His performance far and away is above everyone else and he really grounds the picture and makes it tragic.

-The children walk a fine line between creepy, haunting, and so annoying you want to strangle. Kudos to the child actors/actresses and the direction they were giving. Watching them march around 2x2 is a very frightening sight.

-There is one truly disturbing moment in the film ::SPOILER:: When Mara forces Barbara to repeatedly stick her hand into the boiling pot of soup really got to me. It’s something about not being able to control your own body and then doing harm to yourself that is unsettling. ::END SPOILER::

-Although there is not much gore in this film, the few times we do see something unsettling it’s well done.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Growing up I was a big Kristie Alley fan, but while watching this film I felt like they could have casted the role better. Her performance left a lot to be desired and it felt like she was there to pick up a paycheck. She really phoned in her performance.

-It’s hard to categorize this film as a horror film, because it plays out more like a supernatural drama with a couple of horror moments. Then there is an element of science fiction in it, so it’s really impossible to truly place this film into a genre. It also makes watching it a bit strange, because you never know exactly what you are supposed to take from the film.

-When the John Carpenter moments show up (parts of the score, certain cuts, and the horror elements) the film really works, the rest of the time it’s really hit and miss. It feels like a film that John Carpenter made, but the studio got involved with, brought in a different director and then edited themselves.

-It’s hard for me to watch this film and not think of the wonderful Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life.” Sadly, “It’s a Good Life” is a better story and I think the run time helps. Village of the Damned would be a great entry in a one hour horror anthology series, but I don’t think there is enough substance to truly justify a feature length run-time.

Additional Notes:
-The film was shot in Marin County, California where John Carpenter owned a home. The locals were not happy with the filming and attempted to break into equipment trucks. One person would even crank a chainsaw or turn on a lawn mower during a sound take, and wouldn’t turn it off until he was paid.

-Christopher Reeve’s final feature film before becoming paralyzed.

-John Carpenter filmed Village of the Damned as part of a contractual assignment and it was not a project he was passionate about. I think this is why the film barely resembles a John Carpenter film. 

-Wolf Rilla, the director of the original Village of the Damned visited the set with his wife.

-The poor box office return on Village of the Damned killed The Creature of the Black Lagoon remake John Carpenter was working on with Universal.

Rewatching Village of the Damned was an entertaining nostalgic trip for me, but I feel like this was one of those movies that was better left in the past. Had you asked me to review it based off what I remembered, I would have easily said it was four out of five, but having re-watched it, I'm hard pressed to say it's better than two out of five.

I suggest you skip Village of the Damned unless you are a John Carpenter completionist.

A Look at Kevin Smith's Horror Films

It’s wild to think about how far my fandom of Kevin Smith has come and evolved over the years. At one point, his movies were my life. Now, they are fun nostalgic memories that I like to revisit every couple of years.

I don’t follow Mr. Smith and his projects nearly as close as I once did, but whenever a new movie comes along I check it out. Clerks II was the last great Kevin Smith film in my eyes, although as much as I loved that film, I think the pinnacle in my fandom occurred around the time Jersey Girl released. Which, to me, is still one of his better movies and it’s a damn shame he takes every moment to crap on it. But that’s beside the point. Today, I’m here to talk a little about Kevin’s most recent films, a dramatic shift from dick and fart jokes comedy into grotesque horror.

To sum everything up quickly, Kevin said that he always loved horror films and wanted to make the type of movies he enjoyed as a kid. So he created a few strange monster movies that were inspired by the monster films of the 70’s. I guess, the films are inspired, but they don’t feel anything like a 70’s horror film. Sadly most of his horror entries come off more like the mindless ramblings of a stoner who thinks a bad idea is something is funnier and more interesting than it actually is. With that being said, let’s take a quick look at each film.

Red State (2011) – Red State was a movie I avoided for a very long time. The angry teenager in me would be all over a film where teenagers are lured into a crazy Mid-West church under false pretenses. But in my mid-twenties when this came out, I just wasn’t something I interested in. I was sick of hearing about Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church, so seeing a movie inspired by them was not something I rushed out to do.

But one day I was browsing through Best Buy and the Red State DVD was cheap so I picked it up and went home and watched a very well made flick. It’s intense and has some incredible acting by Michael Parks, Anna Gunn, and John Goodman. In fact, Anna Gunn and John Goodman both began a bit of a career upswing after this film, and Ben Affleck cast quite a few of the actors/actresses in Argo. I think the film had more of an impact than most people wanted to admit, but it was just a little too weird to get the critical acclaim an impactful film usually does.

I think some people might have a hard time categorizing Red State as horror, but I think it has enough uncomfortable moments to fall on that thin line between horror and thriller. The whole capturing teenager’s vibe of the film is very reminiscent of the typical 2000’s horror films like Hostel, Wolf Creek, etc.

It’s a onetime watch, but an enjoyable one.

Tusk (2014) – Tusk stars the criminally underrated Justin Long and Michael Parks. The plot of the movie was inspired by a fake ad put in a newspaper about a man wanting to sew another man into a walrus suit. Kevin started outlining the movie as a joke on his podcast, and then got the idea that this would make a great movie.

Great is not how I’d describe this. It’s decent, maybe it even sucks. I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but I certainly have had no interest in revisiting it anytime in the future. The suit in the film is pretty awesome, and Michael Parks is fantastic, but the movie lacked any real substance and is quickly forgettable (outside of one scene involving a suit).

The worse scene (and the only other one I remember) involves Johnny Depp in a very strange role. The worst part about his scene is that he is not really edited. It’s almost as if Kevin just put a camera on him and told him to do his thing, and well, it comes off long, strange, and boring as hell.

Holidays (2016) – Holidays is a horror anthology (something I love) and Kevin directed the Halloween short. All the shorts are based on a holiday, and Kevin was seemingly delivered with the easiest one to do. Unfortunately, he bumbled it big time and while being the only known director as part of the anthology, his short is widely considered the worst.

The short plays off like something a high school film student would come up with. It’s a real bad paint-by-numbers Twilight Zone-esque story that isn’t even really a single act, but more or less a transition piece. The less said about this the better.

Yoga Hosers (2016) – I was pretty excited when this film was first announced. I haven’t been thrilled with Harley Quinn Smith’s (Kevin’s daughter) acting, but the film also featured Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, and I hoped the two real life friends would have chemistry. The plot information also hinted at a bit of a Clerks vibe, just with chicks so things were sounding great. Then I heard about the villain. Kevin Smith was going to play mouse sized Nazi sausages, and that is when I immediately stopped following the production of the film.

This sounded like another stoner’s dream picture, and I just have no interest in that.

When Yoga Hosers hit Netflix, I decided to turn it on for ten minutes and see how bad it was. I was shocked, it was actually pretty enjoyable. The acting is pretty subpar, Johnny Depp returns as his character from Tusk and is annoying, and the Nazi sausages are extremely stupid, but the film is fun. It’s dumb fun, but fun. The film really lacks horror, but if you are looking for ninety minutes of what feels like a true indie film, than Yoga Hosers is worth the watch. Just don’t go in expecting the quality of Clerks, Chasing Amy, or Dogma.

While, not an official Kevin Smith horror film, I didn't think I could say this post was complete without mentioning Kevin Smith's cameo in Scream 3. Both he and Jason Mewes appeared as their Jay and Silent Bob personas for a quick cameo. Kevin had a great working relationship with Harvey Weinstein and I guess someone figured having Jay and Silent Bob show up would be a neat gag.

Being such a huge Kevin Smith fan, when I first saw it I squealed with glee. Looking back on it now, it makes me cringe. It doesn't fit the tone of the Scream series and really had no business being in there.