Plot: The small village of Midwich experiences an unusual phenomenon that changes everyone who resides there. On a normal day, one like any other, the entire village comes to a complete halt for several hours. All the locals fall into a deep sleep, whether they were still in bed or out doing chores or clocked in at work. As if the world had stopped, the village of Midwich ceased to be alive for those few hours. The normal pace soon resumed, but whatever caused those hours of deep sleep, remains unknown and a complete mystery. Months later however, every fertile woman in the village is pregnant and no one has an explanation. Some are married women who wouldn’t be surprised to be pregnant, while others have no clue how it could be, so confusion is thick. When the children are born and display very unusual traits, will the mysterious source be uncovered?
Entertainment Value: A true killer kids classic, Village of the Damned is a tense, atmospheric chiller that even horror master John Carpenter couldn’t equal, when he remade the picture decades later. This is old school horror on showcase, a movie that relies on mood, suspense, and performances, rather than cheap scares and over the top bloodshed. As such, the pace is a little slower and you need to pay more attention, but the slow burn is worth the investment, especially as the tension is reaches a boil toward the finale. The narrative leaps right into motion and wastes little time, with an eerie vibe from the start, which is only amplified as the film rolls on. I don’t think the scares are intense, but it is an unrelenting kind of creepiness, which gets under your skin and keeps things tense, which is quite effective. The visuals are masterful as well, with great cinematography and that insane stare from the children, which remains an iconic image in the horror world. If you have an interest in horror or classic cinema in general, Village of the Damned is highly recommended.
As this one doesn’t lean on jump scares or wild blood splashes, the focus tends to fall on the visuals, atmosphere, and performances. As cool as the almost silent film style visuals are, you need a good cast to pull off this kind of chiller and at the lead of the pack is George Sanders. He is asked to do a lot more than most horror protagonists, but he makes it happen and elevates the material. His gradual breakdown under the pressures of trying to protect his family, then under assault from the odd children is a sight to behold, as Sanders brings a sincere presence that adds gravitas to the role, which in turn enhances the entire movie. Fans of horror will also appreciate Barbara Shelley’s solid role here, while the cast also includes Michael Gwynn, Jenny Laird, and veteran actor Richard Vernon.
The Disc: Warner Archive’s release includes a new 2k restoration that looks excellent, an improvement over even the previous DVD version. The movie looked great back then, but this time, it is better in all aspects. The print looks nearly flawless, with minimal signs of wear and impressive fine detail throughout. This is a treatment that fans will be quite thrilled with. As for extras, we have audio comments from author Steve Haberman and the film’s theatrical trailer.