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John Carpenter’s Village Of The Damned – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Village-of-the-DamnedLoyal fans of horror master John Carpenter (Halloween, They Live) know well the terrifying tale from his 1995 science fiction-horror cult classic VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, directed by Carpenter and executive produced by Ted Vernon (Scarecrows), Shep Gordon (They Live) and Andre Blay (Prince of Darkness). The film stars Christopher Reeve (Superman), Kirstie Alley (Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan), Linda Kozlowski (Crocodile Dundee) and Michael Paré (The Lincoln Lawyer).  On April 12, 2016, Scream Factory™ is proud to present John Carpenter’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED Collector’s Edition Blu-ray™, packed with insightful bonus content including new interviews with director John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero, actor Michael Paré and cast,Horror’s Hallowed Grounds featurette (revisiting the locations of the film) and much more!

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Something is terribly wrong in the tiny village of Midwich. After an unseen force invades a quiet coastal town, ten women mysteriously find themselves pregnant. Local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee and government scientist Dr. Susan Verner join forces when the women simultaneously give birth… and the reign of supernatural terror begins.

I love John Carpenter.  On any given day he’s my favorite director of all time, no question.  The man has the distinguished honor of having directed my favorite film of all time too.  But, the man is not infallible.  He made great, good, decent, subpar and bad films in his time.  His remake of Village of the Damned is on the lesser end of the spectrum, but I’m coming around to appreciate it more over the years.  The film has a lot of Carpenter stuff in it that you love about him and that still works in this.  Overall, with Village of the Damned, there was something there, but it just didn’t quite hit the mark.

What does he get right?  Well, there is plenty here in the film.  First off, the cinematography is up to snuff and lovely just as any other film he’s done.  Its got a scope and scale matching to the likes of some of his best.  Matching with that is the effects and makeup on the film.  Its features some gnarly and grisly practical work from legend Greg Nicotero who was working with John Carpenter for the third time.  Add to that, the look of the children in this movie really really works.  They have nice creepy and otherworldly look and feel to them.  Their colors and presence almost feels like they were cut and pasted from an older film into this one.  Its really nifty to see here, and on Blu-ray I think it finally shows up best since the theater, considering what we had before with most people was seeing it on VHS.

The cast of Village of the Damned is also quite good and underrated.  Most notably, this is Christopher Reeve’s last film before his tragic accident that paralyzed him.  People on the retrospective documentary have nothing but the kindest things to say about him, and eerily mention that he had brought the horse to set and was riding it around on days off.   I’ve always seen people give this film crap for touting Michael Pare’s presence in this film when he doesn’t last too long.  It was by design.  Carpenter wanted people to think he was going to be a big part of the film and to surprise them with his death so early on.  Remember, the guy came from loving Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, so its no surprise.  Mark Hamill is terrific here as the priest in his second effort following Body Bags with the director.  Kirstie Alley is just fine here and in 1995, this sort of casting wasn’t a big deal and made a bit of sense with her in a serious role.  While she was noted for being on a sitcom, she was the straight person on Cheers and not too wild at all.

While its weird for me to praise things and then refer to the final product ends up being a little too weird and messy (Movies that sort of go in that direction always somehow do), that’s how it is.  I’ve already seen plenty of negative on this film in the past, so I decided to maybe take a different angle and find the good amidst the mediocre.  This Blu-ray from Scream Factory also helps in giving a new found appreciation for a lot of it.  It also now has me drooling over what could have been a John Carpenter remake of The Creature From The Black Lagoon and will likely never be.  Damnit, Universal!

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Village of the Damned looks pretty good.  I’ve not seen the UK and other foreign territory releases transfer for this film (I would have probably had Scream Factory announced this any later).  But, I imagine since this is Universal, that the picture is comparable with a some minor updates and upgrades from Scream Factory.  Its good, clean, sharp image that really gives the movie its due.

Depth:  Solid work on the dimensions.  Movement is smooth and natural.  Background imagery is pretty good in static shots.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and help to define images while hiding the least amount of information.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Whites and grays probably come across as the most unique flavors in the image.  Its a rather intentional flat and monotonous look with the colors in the film by design.  Greens do stick out pretty good on trees and plants.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones have a natural appearance and maintain it throughout the duration of the film.  Close ups show the best detail of make-up, stubble, wrinkles, lip texture and blemishes.

Noise/Artifacts:  Its pretty clean looking picture.  Some specs/dirt here and there.  Par for the typical Scream Factory course.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Village of the Damned has a nice audio mix in its 5.1 track.  The sound is good, clean and free in its nature.  Foley effects are well rendered and layers.  It also features a particular good blend and balance of vocals, effects and score.

Low Frequency Extension:  Crashes, score hits and sci-fi effects are the main contributions of the subwoofer in the mix.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Front speakers do most of the work with accurate volume levels for placement and movement.  Rear speakers aren’t a nonfactor, but are relegated to a lot of ambiance and score.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is good, clean and at an ideal volume level.

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Village of the Damned comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster artwork.

It Takes A Village: The Making Of John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (HD, 49:17) – An “assignment” that began as Carpenter & co wanting to remake Creature From The Black Lagoon and then getting a trade off and remaking Village of the Damned.  John Carpenter, Sandy King, Greg Nicotero, Meredith Salenger, Karen Kahn, Peter Jason, Michael Pare, Lindsey Haun, Cody Dorkin, Danielle Keaton and Thomas Dekker (Who calls the A Nightmare On Elm St remake a “horrendous mess”) have an honest and truthful recollection of the film’s production.  Its incredibly informative and fun as they talk the rushed and controversial at its time of release production.  Another outstanding retrospective documentary from Scream Factory.

Horror’s Hallowed Ground (HD, 20:58) – Feels like forever since one of these has been included on a Scream Factory release.  Sean Clark travels to the location where Village of the Damned was shot (Inverness, CA) while giving anecdotes on both the film and the area.

The Go To Guy: Peter Jason On John Carpenter (HD, 45:13) – The man who’s appeared in the most films with John Carpenter gives a full on storied look back and discusses their shared filmography together.  This is outstanding and a treat to have here.

Vintage Interviews and Behind-The-Scenes (HD, 24:40) – Features interviews with John Carpenter, Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill and others as well as behind the scenes footage.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:59) 

Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 2:05) 

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While Village of the Damned may be “lesser Carpenter”, it still offers plenty to appreciate and many of the things you love about the director.  Whatever your thoughts on this film, the Blu-ray here is a laborious effort that will give you some more appreciation for this production.  The film looks and sounds terrific, but the star is the great bonus material which makes this release.  What Scream Factory is aces at doing is taking something middle of the road and making it a must have, which is what they’ve done with this release.  Add it to your John Carpenter collection for sure.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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