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Carpenter’s ‘Village’ A Well-Made Thriller

Teresa Gubbins Dallas Morning News

“Village of the Damned”

Location: Newport, Lincoln Heights, Coeur d’Alene cinemas

Credits: Directed by John Carpenter, starring Christopher Reeve, Linda Kozlowski, Kirstie Allie and Mark Hamill

Running time: 96 minutes

Rating: R

It’s hard to pin down the exact moment when you know that “Village of the Damned” is going to have you sweating bullets, on the floor.

There’s the seemingly idyllic town of Midwich, Calif., impeccably photographed, perfect in a ‘50s kind of way. Too perfect. There’s the disturbing sight of an entire town, stilled: every man, woman, dog and cow temporarily rendered lifeless by a mysterious entity.

And there’s the film’s first good, shrieking scare (what, you think I’m telling you?), a delicious fake-out tossed out fairly early, a gift, delivered with a smack and a wink.

After a hit-or-miss spell, “Halloween” director John Carpenter is back with an old-fashioned thriller that’s not only satisfying for its scare value but is also simply a well-made, beautiful-towatch film.

“Village” is a remake of a 1960 British film by the same name, adapted from “The Midwich Cuckoos,” a novel by science fiction author John Wyndham (he also wrote “Day of the Triffids,” a horror classic). After an unexplained spell is cast over the small coastal town of Midwich, the women, including one virgin, mysteriously become pregnant. Nine children with eery, identical white hair and blue eyes are born. Most of the women are pleased - until the children’s supernatural, destructive powers become evident, and the town is never the same again.

Christopher Reeve - yes, Superman - is aptly cast as the town’s warm doctor; his strong, dark, physical presence and clean-cut wholesomeness instantly convey fatherly heroism. Linda Kozlowski (Mrs. “‘Crocodile’ Dundee”) is the story’s equally warm, motherly, blond counterpart.

Each becomes single parent to a child (their mates fall by the wayside): Reeve is father to Mara, the unreachable child-leader, while Kozlowski is mother to David, the one child who develops feelings. It’s plotting on a grand, classic level and makes for an exciting, not to mention slam-bang, ending.

Kirstie Alley plays a secretive but dedicated government epidemiologist who must remain cold and unreadable in order to elude the children’s telepathic abilities.

And let’s hear it for the resuscitation of Mark Hamill, the Luke Skywalker of “Star Wars,” here cast as the town’s clergyman.

What “Village” is not is a cheesy old horror flick. The opening shots depict a beautiful sunset that spells out the filmmakers’ care and expense. And while Carpenter delivers on the thrills, he does so in a light-handed, old-style manner, never actually showing the gore.

Special effects are impressive. But even the low-tech touches are deft, with small elements such as the children’s monochromatic gray wardrobes making a strong statement.

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