Even if you're not familiar with Village of the Damned, chances are that you've seen it parodied a million times. Like other staples of popular sci-fi/horror pop culture references, "Here's Johnny" from The Shining, "It's people!" from Soylent Green, etc…, the creepy mind controlling alien/demon kids from Village of The Damned have been parodied and referenced in a way that makes the references far more famous than the film itself. And yes, of course there's an episode of The Simpsons that spoofs it.
Before the J-horror craze hit the western world in the early ‘90s, our go-to reference for creepy horror kids was a swarm of them with judgmental British eyes and judgmental British voices, wearing goofy blonde wigs, while controlling grown-ups' minds with bright white rays from their eyes. It's a typical cheesy image from the ‘60s b-movie sci-fi catalogue, to be sure, but there's also something inherently creepy and downright Jungian about the look of soulless children who can order any adult to kill themselves. It has burned into the minds of enough filmmakers who came of age during the time of its release that it still shows up in pop culture as a trope, and even moved John Carpenter to direct a remake in 1995. It was bad, making The Thing still his crowning achievement when it comes to reimagining his favorite childhood flicks.
Village of the Damned actually takes its time getting to the creepy alien children who are planted inside unsuspecting women as a backdoor way for aliens to take over the world. Not a subtle plan, since it becomes immediately obvious that these kids are up to no good. The first act could be watched as a terrific Twilight Zone episode on its own. It certainly captures that unsettling and paranoid Rod Serling feeling as everyone within a certain border of a quaint English town fall asleep at the same time. The border is very strict, cross it for even an inch and down you go. This section slowly ratchets up the mystery and tension in an expert fashion.
Once everyone awakens, all the women in the town who are of childbearing age are pregnant, whether or not they've had sex, which understandably creates some tension amongst this small conservative town. The major problem with Village of the Damned is that it practically doesn't have a second act. Right after the children grow up and begin to control the adults' minds, the main characters, led by a schoolteacher played by George Sanders, immediately come to terms with the fact that they're dealing with hostile alien beings and hatch a plan to dispose of them.
It would have been nice to see how the townspeople gradually adjusted to these new kids, what kind of a relationship was cultivated between the two sides. We sense that Sanders' character has some affinity for the children, but without a second act to develop that, it's a bit weak. The third act comes full circle and presents a satisfying and famous finale, one that was also used in the remake. The special effects are rough in the sense that they fits the period. The moments where the kids' eyes glow are obviously handled with still photography. However, that's also the charm of a film like this.
Considering that this is an archive release, I was stunned by the clarity and contrast ratio of the 1080p transfer. The black and white contrast is perfect; I couldn't see any scratches or video noise. This is Criterion-level stuff.
We get a DTS-HD 2.0 mono track. I usually prefer 1.0 for mono, but other than that the sound is clear and well mixed.
Commentary by Steve Haberman: The expert on genre cinema of the period gives great insight into the culture of the time and how it influenced the film.
Although not a genre masterwork, Village of the Damned has enough strong spots and pop culture relevance that makes it a must-see for every genre hound. This great A/V transfer sweetens the deal.