Let me first say that John Carpenter means a whole heck of a lot to me. THE THING is probably my favorite film and I am (like so many others) a gigantic fan of his films across the board. Even the ones that many folks consider misfires (GHOSTS OF MARS, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN) are still enjoyable as far as I'm concerned. He is just a cinephile's filmmaker and the care and attention he takes composing each frame of his movies is ever apparent in his output. VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is what many might consider "lesser" Carpenter as well, but there's a lot to still like about it. For one thing, it's Carpenter working in widescreen - which is always a good thing. He is one of those directors that not only loves the look of a 2.35 to 1 frame, but also handles the task of filling said frame with a good deal of thought. As a personal aside, I love it when I'm sitting in a movie theater and I see the matting around the screen start mechanically shifting to widescreen. It never ceases to excite me. It's just a frame size that reminds me of old school filmmaking. Carpenter comes from that mindset as well and the way he tells a story is still rooted very much in doing so as much visually as with dialogue. His movies almost always exemplify pure cinema in that a good deal of the information is expressed without too much talking. From that perspective, I always enjoy sitting back with a Carpenter film - especially one I haven't seen in a while - to take in how he's setting things up with camera placement and movement. What's neat too about VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is the cast. Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill, Linda Koslowski, Meredith Salenger, Michael Pare and the excellent Peter Jason comprise the main group and it's a treat to see Carpenter working with such an ensemble. How cool was it for us watching this movie when it first came out to see Superman and Luke Skywalker in a movie together? It's still pretty fantastic I must say, as much as their characters are quite different from the icons we most know them for. So you have a solid cast, a good director and a Twilight Zoney plot about a small town called Midwich, which is beset by some strange goings on. In particular, the village experiences a full on blackout one day - and not an electrical failure. A strange slit of darkness overtakes this small community and it is followed by otherworldly hum which seems to cause the entire population to lapse into unconsciousness for several hours. Soon after they awaken, it becomes apparent that ten of the Midwich's women are now pregnant and the whole phenomenon has attracted federal attention in the form of a scientific organization that wants to oversee the pregnancies and the raising of the resulting children. When said children are born, it is clear all is not right with them and they start to exhibit some "sinister traits" (I'll just leave it at that). I sometimes find myself having trouble getting on board with "evil kid" movies for the simple reason that they always seem like not the most menacing of villains (at least in terms of their physical stature). That said, this movie makes pretty effective antagonists of these creepy youngsters to the point that I can buy in a bit more than I often do. Carpenter makes good use of the aforementioned widescreen format to often capture all of the kids (8 or 9 of them at a time) in a single shot, which certainly works to make them come across as a more malevolent little unit. The final resolution of the film is thus a certainly interesting one in that it feels like an ending that we would likely not get if the film were remade today. On the whole, the movie has an eerie atmosphere that I find sufficiently troubling to the point of making it an uneasy viewing experience. I absolutely have to give Carpenter credit for that. He's always been a director who could really bring a ton of mood and atmosphere to his movies and that is not an easy thing to do well.
-"It Takes a Village: The Making of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED" (49 Mins) - This NEW doc features Interviews With Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King, Actors Michael Paré, Peter Jason, Karen Kahn, Meredith Salenger, Thomas Dekker, Cody Dorkin, Lindsey Haun, Danielle Wiener-Keaton And Make-up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero. It's a pretty great little supplement in that it paints a fairly detailed picture of both the highs and lows of working on a mid-budget studio film in the 1990s. All of the actors have lots of memories of the production, the circumstances that surrounded them at the time and how they were treated throughout the course of filming. I also think it was a nice choice that they decided to speak to and include so many of the now grown-up child actors from the movie as their perspective on the process is intriguing.
-"Horror's Hallowed Grounds" – Revisiting The Locations Of The Film. (NEW)
-"The Go To Guy: Peter Jason On John Carpenter". (NEW)
-Vintage Interviews Featuring John Carpenter, Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Hamill And Wolf Rilla (Director Of The Original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED).
-Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage
DESTROYER (1988; Robert Kirk)
Sometimes I feel like I must just be getting old or something. It seems my sensitivity to and tolerance for mean-spirited films is fading away as I age. Even things like actors that I truly adore cannot fully overcome the distasted I have for sadistic stuff in some movies. With that in mind, I really found myself recently enjoying THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which is nothing if not mean-spirited. So maybe I just like my asshole characters and stories to make a little more sense. DESTROYER is not a movie that thrives on logic by any means. There are few horror films that do, however it occasionally hangs me up on some occasions. Ex-football player turned actor Lyle Alzado plays a truly barbarous serial killer who is supposedly executed by electric chair in the early scenes of this movie. He isn't dead though and somehow comes back to terrorize a film production that is filming in the now abandoned prison where he was put to death. It's pretty standard stuff as this sort of thing goes and feels like it exists somewhere between A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SHOCKER (though it precedes Horace Pinker by a few years). The highlights for me here are the cast. Both Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman are the co-leads and I've always found both of them to be a lot of fun to watch. Both actors have appeared in some of my 80s favorites - things like JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, MODERN GIRLS, VALLEY GIRL and APRIL FOOL'S DAY. This movie is a kind of reunion for them as they both starred in APRIL FOOL'S DAY together and that has always been a favorite of mine. Rohner is one of those 80s actors that I think a lot of people remember. He had this good sense of humor and some wild hair that is often coiffed to look like some kind of slight pompadour meets a "naturally messy" look. It's particularly big in this movie (as is Ms. Foreman's). Not to go on and on about hairstyles, but they certainly stand out in this film where not too much else does. The other neat thing here is that Anthony Perkins plays the director of the film being shot at the prison and he does his best with what he is given and does a decent job. Also, the killer (Alzado) uses a jackhammer to dispatch one of his victims and that's kinda neat. Sadly, he only uses it a single time and then never brings it back. For a movie with him holding the jackhammer on the cover, I was hoping for a bit more jackhammering. All told, I do believe that if I had seen this as a youngster (it slipped by me despite the fact that I saw it on many a video store shelf), I know I would have more affection for it. As it stands, I can only recommend it to Rohner/Foreman completists.
EDGE OF SANITY (1989; Gerard Kikoine)
This Jekyll and Hyde story is a decent showcase for Anthony Perkins (who I never tire of seeing on screen). I associate Perkins with horror in a somewhat similar way as I do with Vincent Price. He's iconic in that sense. And like Vincent Price, he is something of an actor "out of time". By that I mean his physicality and looks make him seem like someone you might see in a period film and not think twice about it. He reminds me of a more handsome, live-action version of Ichabod Crane I suppose. So I wish he'd done more period work as I think it would have suited him well. An actor like Perkins or Vincent Price can act as a hook for me that can bring me into a movie like that (which I don't always find it simple to ease into). Though EDGE OF SANITY suffers a bit from an obviously lower budget in terms of pulling of the time and place, it is made more memorable by being not only a Jekyll and Hyde thing, but also entangling bits of Jack the Ripper into the plot. The dual role in general is often quite entertaining to see done in films and it would seem an invigorating task for an actor to take on. Perkins really dives in and goes for it here, especially when he is in Hyde mode and that stuff is certainly worth watching. It is not necessarily the most well-reviewed film in his career, but I think if you are a Perkins fan you will enjoy it.
I was able to find this clip of Perkins on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1989, promoting EDGE OF SANITY (which I thought was worth sharing):