Village of the Damned (1960)
seen on TV @ TCM
For this post about Village of the Damned, I will speak in a British accent. What do you think? Is it convincing? I admit, I'm no Meryl Streep, but I don't think a British accent is too hard to pull off. You can't tell, can you? Okay, wait a minute, let me try something...
How about now? No? Well, I tried.
This was one I had wanted to see for a long time. I already knew the premise - demon-seed Aryan kids take over a town with their mental powers - but I wasn't entirely sure how scary it would be. I'd say it's more unsettling than outright scary. Whereas most horror movies these days depend on gore or other "shock" moments, Village relies more on tension and mystery, ramping them up little by little until the literally explosive finale. Do we ever find out what force creates the spooky kids? No. Do we need to? Not really. At least I didn't.
I like how this film uses misdirection to keep you on your toes. It begins with a completely different mystery - what has turned everyone and everything in the small British town "off," so to speak? - before introducing the spooky kids and their agenda. Also, George Sanders doesn't take a central role until maybe twenty minutes or so in the film.
Addison DeWitt as a good guy? Sure, why not - though I kept expecting him to be the secret mastermind behind the spooky kids, or to at least double-cross somebody. Actually, he had a mighty long and productive career. Did you know he was the star of not one, but two film franchises? There was the Saint, back in the late 30s/early 40s; a kind of gentleman thief (perhaps you recall the Val Kilmer movie version), and there was also the Falcon, a detective, also from the early 40s.
Village is a brisk 77 minutes, and it packs quite a bit into the story, partly as the result of implicated actions; the screenplay isn't afraid to let you add two and two on your own. There's a lot of talk, but it's never boring, and while the premise is unusual, to say the least, everything is played straight. You never doubt what's going on. If you think British horror is just Hammer films, check this one out, too (although it was actually made at MGM).