Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Twofer Tuesday, where we delve into the depths and bring back two gems, or sometimes some hunks of brown glass. You join your intrepid bloggers Andy and Lilly, who recommend that you immediately phone your MP if everyone in your village passes out at the same time.
Unfortunately due to the election, we were only able to watch one of our two films for today – this will be remedied! The other half, Children of the Damned, will be coming soon. Watch this space!
Today’s Film Offering: Village of the Damned
Andy: Village of the Damned is one of those strange films that almost nobody has seen but is instantly recognisable to anyone around our age. This is for one simple reason – The Simpsons did a fantastic parody of it called The Bloodening. If you’ve ever seen that bit and wondered what it was based off, this is it.
The other point of pop culture reference is the fact that George Sanders plays the main adult lead; immediately recognisable as Shere Khan from Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Based on a novel by John Wyndham (of Day of the Triffids fame) called The Midwich Cuckoos, the plot kicks off with everyone in the village passing out at the same time. There’s some military intervention and some fascinating experiments with the limits of this effect, but eventually everyone wakes up again and everything seems normal.
Except that every woman of childbearing age is now pregnant.
Best line in the film, that.
Andy: Anyway, here’s where we hit a bit of a cultural barrier. Nowadays, this would be odd, and mildly scandalous. In 1960, this is shocking beyond belief – accusations of pre- and extramarital sex fly thick and fast, and it’s a fascinating insight into the cultural values at the time. Eventually, they do work out that as everyone is pregnant at the same time, and that there’s something a bit weirder going on.
And then the kids are born, and are freaky as hell. They age too quickly, are far too stern and serious, and are apparently telepathic.
Lilly: Which, you know, isn’t overly surprising, given they are all basically some sort of alien baby, but still. Immaculate conception for all!
This film is so full of ‘streuth’s and ‘blimey’s, it’s practically a fishmarket in the East End of London. It makes me nostalgic for living in England, and I never even heard those words in the wild, really. It has that delicious taste of 1960s British horror wherein everyone goes around going ‘what ho’ and ‘alright?’ when terror is happening. It’s a wonder that George Sanders’ stiff upper lip didn’t solve it all, really. “Extraordinary thing, really” is his response to waking up after mysteriously passing out. Legend. He’s a legend. He is so smooth, he literally talks the whole town down after the initial oddness. How? How. His smooth voice, that’s how.
Meanwhile, I love the lady who complains about her dress being burnt after the weird event of the town passing out. She has priorities.
Andy: There is a gentle comedy to the scene, which is an interesting juxtaposition with the horror that’s coming.
Lilly: Right, let’s talk about how people treat this event: George plays piano and smiles at his flowering plants, his wife buys all the pickles (wait, don’t PREGNANT LADIES like pickles? EH?) and the lady at the shop takes advantage of the pickle boom and gets rich. So, no problem. Besides the telepathic psychos that come, but hey, for ninth months, the town is pretty happy. Worse things could happen. I don’t know why they think they are so damned, people have way worse times after blacking out during ironing and filling their sink to do dishes. Surely!
Now, the married couples are happy enough, but what’s really tragic is the poor woman who has never had sex and is pregnant, or the woman who has had her husband away for a year and is pregnant–you really see the 1960s shining through when those come up. Imagine the terror of being pregnant without having a clue how–stigma or not, your body is being invaded, and that is really, really creepy. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female on this one, the idea of waking up to find out all of a sudden you are playing host to another life…well. Eep.
Lilly: Something I really like about this film is that is really pays attention to the fear that comes along with pregnancy, and not just of the supernatural nature. George’s wife is terrified of what sort of person she is growing inside her, and that’s a legit fear.
Especially when what comes out is legitly terrifying.
As the film unfolds, we find out the ‘incident’ didn’t only happen in Midwich, but around the world. Mysterious town blackouts, pregnancies, weirdo kids–the whole thing. However, it is down to George Sanders and his town to sort this out because…reasons?
Andy: One of the things that make this film so good is the nebulousness of the terror. There’s no central point of attack, or central plot to unravel. The kids are there, but they’re not, yknow, building anything. A lesser film would have them ‘preparing the way’ or something. But here, their motives, if they have such a thing, are completely ambiguous.
Lilly: Yes, you are surprised when all of a sudden, David, the lead child, announces their plans to leave–and yet, any normal child, you’d expect to leave home. It’s like you get lulled into the same mortified stupor Anthea (George’s wife) gets herself into, where you have no idea how things are ever going to get better for the village under the tyrannical behaviour of the blond kids. They can read minds. How can they even have hope?
Andy: What emerges is a fantastic battle of wits. This isn’t a film where there’s a lot of violence, or a lot of action, but a careful, considered approach to a very peculiar problem. It’s a pretty great, slow-burning thriller, shot through with subtle horror and sci-fi elements.
Some aspects have aged better than others, but if you like this sort of thing, it’s a very solid recommend from us.
Lilly: Go forth and watch this, and try, just try not to imitate David’s voice. It’s impossible
You’re thinking of a brick wall.