VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED: 1960 v. 1995

*A big fan of both versions of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, Icons of Fright’s Jovy Skol wrote this piece about the differences between the two. Read on! -Jerry Smith


When I was a kid, my parents worked long hours often leaving me to be on my own during the day. They knew not to worry about me too much as I was not an outdoors child so the thought of a predator snatching me was from a threat. My interests were heavy on reading and watching movies. I was introduced to plenty of old movies thanks to classic marathons, originating my love for the original PLANET OF THE APES franchise and PSYCHO. Another classic I found was the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. I was around eight years old at the time and had seen some TV spots for the John Carpenter remake, leaving me with a curiosity to what this was all about. I was always fascinated with villains and loved that there were kids who could kill you with a simple stare.

Village_of_the_Damned_19601960’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED revolves around a British village where everyone inside passes out and the same goes for anyone who enters. Even if one were to walk within city limits with a gas mask, the same effect takes. The military sends in a man via plane to investigate, but he drops too low he too loses consciousness and crashes his plane. Soon everyone wakes up with no apparent side effects, except that all the women are pregnant. The pregnancy cycle goes at a quicker than normal pace and the mothers all give birth at the same time.
The children share similar physical traits: blank stares and blinding blonde hair. Another thing they share is a psychic bond and quick learning abilities. One particular sequence showcases how one child learning how to complete a Chinese puzzle box means all the children can do it as well. Besides cold demeanor’s, the children display no sense of emotions and lack any sort of empathy. As they get older, they develop the ability to read minds, giving them an advantage over an sort of threat as the parents become more frightened and suspicious of the children’s motives. One of the children, David, becomes their leader and makes the all decisions regarding their surroundings and who they let live. David’s father manages to keep them in a building along with a time bomb, which he keeps hidden in his mind from the children by thinking of a brick wall. By the time the children break through this mental wall, it’s too late and they die when the building explodes.
Fast forward to 1995 and we have a remake brought to us by the one and only John Carpenter. While the set up remains the same, his take on the story makes some interesting changes. While David plays a significant role in the remake, his character is much more submissive and doesn’t fit in too well with the group. 1995-village-of-the-damned-poster1This doesn’t sit too well their leader, Mara, who makes it apparent that their goal is to create more colonies with her kind, eventually wiping out the human race.
The children have paired up, male to female, with the goal to reproduce as soon as their bodies allow them to do so. David, however, is left without this option as his potential mate died during birth and was taken away immediately by a government scientist, played by an interesting choice that is Kirstie Alley. Since David is left without a mate, Mara questions what purpose he has and if he should even be allowed to live as a result. In the end, David is saved by his widowed mother (the father dies in a car crash resulting from the blackout) before the others are killed in a similar fashion to the 1960 original. The film closes with David and his mother driving out of town to a place where no one knows them and the camera closes in on David’s face, leaving it ambiguous as to he really is not like the others.
A big creative difference between the two films is what gender is front and center. The original has men as both leaders of the good and bad. David takes charge of the alien children, while his father is the smart guy in town who leads them to their doom. The wives in the original serve as mere hosts and when one tries to burn herself in hysterics as a result of David’s mind tricks, her husband literally has physically slap sense back into her and she’s calm immediately. The men must protect their kind at any means possible. There also seems to be a lack of compassion when the children are eventually killed at the end as no one mourns the loss.
In Carpenter’s film, while Christopher Reeve does play the male lead as Mara’s father, we get to know Jill, David’s mother, who immediately senses her son is not like the others. We get to share few moments of a parent child bonding absent from the original, making it more sympathetic for audiences and maybe even root for them to survive in the end. A new character we get is Alley’s scientist whose intentions are questionable with methods kept hidden from the residents. Her presence makes everyone uncomfortable and she clearly knows more than she lets on. 

In a modern twist, when the women find out about their pregnancies, Alley provides them with two options: keep the child with the agreement to be under government surveillance and study along with a monthly allowance of $3000 or have an abortion. If the families are unable to finance an abortion and wish to have one, a medical team would be brought in to assist.
The gender take between the two films and how women’s roles differ is what makes VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED an interesting viewing no matter which version you prefer. These creative decisions are what keeps me watching remakes or the hip term “reimaginings.” When cultural movements come into play and civil rights have shifted, these landmarks can be utilized to heighten a film experience one couldn’t explore decades ago.

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