61 Days of Halloween- Village of the Damned (1960)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Village of the Damned (1960)

The original Village of the Damned is an exercise in dealing with a lot of story with quick, precise strokes and keeping the pace moving. If one were to contrast it to its remake, what this film does it keeps a lot of the mystery about why these children are gifted and terrifying for as long as possible.

It examines aspects of mob mentality but addresses its central issue mostly with a few characters only. Its implications are far-reaching but it never gets bogged down or spreads itself too thin. Similar incidents elsewhere are alluded to in dialogue but not touched upon and the moralistic struggle, is rendered with the same tautness as the horrific concluding struggle is.

This film also excels in using the mind, mind-control and telepathy as its fear factors. The possibilities that it allows story-tellers are nearly endless and it set the stage for many other tales of the like to follow suit. The clandestine nature of the killings: the odd circumstances combined with the unproveable assumption of the children being responsible, are what give the film a lot of its drive.

The compromised nature and moralistic quagmire that the protagonist finds himself is aided not only by the fact that he is the man who knows the case of these mysterious simultaneous births, and supernaturally gifted children so well, but one of them is his own child.

George Sanders plays the lead and is perfectly sympathetic in this scenario. We see him as a man, husband, scientist and patriot; be challenged. He’s a man of reason, which allows for the situation and its ramifications to be debated intelligently and for his uncovering of the fact, those he does get to hit home harder and to make his battle that much more engaging.

The Village of the Damned does a lot with not much in terms of effects, techniques and outlandish production value. Its biggest boon is the successful and fully wrought implementation of its ideas in a brisk, efficient manner.

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61 Days of Halloween- Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Michael Moriarty in Pick Me Up (Starz Productions)

In this series of films I have already chronicled both films in the Masters of Horror series and Larry Cohen, in The Stuff. However, this film is a little different for both parties which is part of the point of starting this series was to find, or reveal, works in the horror genre that are worth profiling.

What separates this film is that it truly does focus on the antagonist more than the protagonist and what’s more is it concerns itself with a cruel twist of fate in which there are two psychopaths covering the same area.

While this film does have Cohen’s typical blend of humor the production values are way up from their usual standard and furthermore it does get pretty darn creepy more than once as this unique scenario is allowed to be investigated almost to its fullest. Aiding in that journey is the fact that the screenplay has been adapted by the author of the short story David J. Schow.

The film is further elevated by the fact that it features yet another brilliant performance by Michael Moriarty, a Cohen regular, who always seems to be a completely different character.

What makes it compelling is not only do you realize early on that these two characters are on a collision course but when they meet you even wonder if they are working in tandem. When you find they are not it still remains interesting as you hear the differing philosophies behind their psychoses. Yet even with all that there is a twist in store that catches you, which is all the more surprising.

Of all those in the series I’ve seen this is the one I’d put at the top of the list for the conventional horror fan to see first. If you’re familiar with Argento obviously see Jenifer but this is likely the most accessible and successful title to date.

9/10