Village Of The Damned (1995)

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Cast & Crew Biographies
Production Notes
DVD-ROM Web Link
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1995
Running Time 93:57 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director John Carpenter
Universal.gif (3614 bytes)
Columbia Tristar
Starring Christopher Reeve
Kirstie Alley
Linda Kozlowski
Michael Paré
Mark Hamill
Meredith Salenger
Case Soft Brackley
RPI $29.95 Music John Carpenter
Dave Davies

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes, when one man collapses over a barbecue.
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Being that I am not familiar with the story behind Village Of The Damned, or the John Wyndham novel (The Midwich Cuckoos) upon which it is based, I will try to keep my overview of the plot brief.

    The story begins with a strange mist floating over a coastal town in the USA, and ten women suddenly find themselves pregnant with children that turn out to be alien creatures in humanoid form with immense powers of mind control. One specific fault I found with the plot is that, for supposedly "emotionless" creatures, these children sure get upset pretty easily. From what I could ascertain, much of the original idea of the story was to raise questions about mankind's inability to accept the unknown, and Reverend George (Mark Hamill) keeps the film consistent with this idea. The heroes, such as they are, consist of Allen Chaffee (Christopher Reeve), Jill McGowan (Linda Kozlowski), Frank McGowan (Michael Paré), and Doctor Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley). The last of these characters is a modern addition to the story that holds little rhyme nor reason except to modernize the script a touch, much like the more explicit violence and speech of this 1995 production. The bad guys are a group of white-haired children who sit around doing nothing a lot on a farmhouse for years until someone finally decides that there's something not quite normal about them and that they Must Be Stopped .

    Not having seen the original 1960 production of this film, I cannot really comment on whether this is the best version of the film that one can lay out their thirty dollars for. However, if there is one thing that director John Carpenter does well, it is to take old horror stories and bring them into the modern age, albeit with variable results. Much of this film is unintentionally funny, and much of it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but the whole sense of this on-screen town being doomed is carried well enough to make for an entertaining film. It is also worth noting that this is the last film Christopher Reeve appeared in before he was paralysed from the neck down in a horse-riding accident, a truly sad situation given his commanding presence as an actor. I personally liked Village Of The Damned according to John Carpenter. Many others don't, but I found it enjoyable enough to warrant repeated viewings.

Transfer Quality


    Universal's mantra seems to be inconsistency, and it often seems like the best films receive the worst transfers, so I was curious to see how this film would look now that it was being released as part of a lower-priced horror title range. Overall, this is a very good transfer, although it is not without its occasional flaws.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is razor sharp from start to finish, although it may be a little too sharp for its own good, as I will explain in a moment.

    The colour saturation is rich, but still perfectly consistent with the location and subject of the shots. The saturation captures the rich palette of colours that were intended to be seen, with no bleeding or misregistration apparent.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed in the feature, with yet another example of faultless compression on display. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some wobble during the credits that may have been introduced during principal photography, and some aliasing. Standout examples of aliasing include a fencepost at 6:45 and the front of a car at 8:00, both of which shimmer in spite of the fact that the camera is (seemingly) perfectly still. This seems to be a problem with the sharpness of the transfer, with many linear areas of chrome being too bright and shiny for an interlaced display to fully cope. Most fine lines in the picture are not affected by this problem, but it is noticeable when they are. Film artefacts were not especially prevalent, although one or two small artefacts appeared every now and again to remind the viewer that this is a five year old film.


    The audio transfer is presented with five soundtracks: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtracks in German, Italian, French, and Spanish. I listened to the default English soundtrack, without really bothering to listen to the dubbed soundtracks because of a lack of interest in how the clinical, cold dialogue would be rendered.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand most of the time, although there is the occasional bout of mumbling that poses some difficulties. There were no discernible problems with audio sync at any time.

    The score music is credited to John Carpenter and Dave Davies, and is an especially haunting effort. The score consists mainly of choir vocals and synthesizer work, and is very quick to get to the heart of the matter in each scene where it appears, having an emotional resonance that is otherwise lacking except in Christopher Reeve's acting. The score helps to create a mood in many scenes where there may not have been one to begin with, and it is worth listening to on its own. As is typical of a John Carpenter score, it made me sit through the closing credits from start to finish on the strength of the music, a very strong plus where I am concerned.

    The surround channels were sporadically active to support special effects and music, creating an immersive soundfield when they were present. The scenes in which the children use their amazing hypnotic powers are the ones that generally sound the best and get the most usage out of the surround channels. In essence, the film has a stereo mix with some surround elements, with the immersive wall of sound built during the more horrific scenes collapsing into a frontal stereo mix during many of the dialogue sequences.

    The subwoofer was present to support some sound effects and the music, and it did this well without making itself conspicuous, unlike the surround channels.



    The menu is static, without any enhancements other than the 16x9 variety. Navigation is relatively straightforward, although the usual annoying Universal icons are present to make things more complicated than they really need to be.

Theatrical Trailer (1:54)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this trailer makes the film out to be more of a thrill ride than the sombre production it really is.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies  for Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, and director John Carpenter are present. The biographies are detailed enough to be of some interest, although their readability is still somewhat questionable. The use of "Film Highlights" in place of a full filmography is rather annoying.

Production Notes

    An interesting essay on the differences between this 1995 remake and the 1960 original, among other aspects of the production such as the difficulties of asking child actors to be perfectly still and quiet.

DVD-ROM Weblink

    Given how volatile and prone to change the World Wide Wait is, this really is a waste of the bits on the disc.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Aside from this higher-bitrate soundtrack, there does not appear to be a lot of difference between the two versions of this disc. In favour of the Region 4 version of this disc is the PAL format and three more soundtracks, as well as more subtitle options. Persistent rumours have it that this film is being re-released in Region 1 with a DTS soundtrack (this was the format the film was exhibited in theatres with), but such a disc has yet to eventuate.


    Village Of The Damned is a good attempt at updating a classic horror story, presented on a good DVD.

    The video quality is good, but let down by a little too much aliasing.

    The audio quality is good, but let down by inconsistent use of the surround channels.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
October 20, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer