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Those ‘Damned’ movies….

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Back in 1960, George Sanders starred in one of the finest horror films ever—“Village of the Damned”.  I think this because it not only has a wonderful and frightening plot, but it was also made on a tiny budget.  Sure, the film is in black & white and features relatively simple sets, but it really packs a HUGE punch.  Yet, oddly, the film spawned a couple follow-up films that were pretty terrible.  The immediate sequel isn’t exactly a sequel.  It is as if they filmmakers took all the terror out of the original film and tossed it out the window!  Gone were the malevolent little demonoid children, here in “Children of the Damned”, these spawn simply want to be left alone and appreciated for their differences!  Then, decades later, Hollywood does what it usually does–makes a mindless remake that offers no improvements over the original.  “Village of the Damned” (1995) is not exactly a terrible film but it begs the question why remake a film from a classic into a mediocre movie?  Below are reviews of the three films.  I STRONGLY advise you see the first one and stop…seriously…just stop!

 

 

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VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)

I am giving this film a 10 based on the “bang for the buck” it provides. Despite having a small budget, few special effects and an unknown cast (aside from George Sanders), it is an engrossing and terrifying sci-fi adventure.

The movie begins with a VERY STRANGE occurrence–a small village just STOPS. All people life within the village stops–machinery, animals and people. And, when the military tries to enter the town, the soldiers just STOP as well–falling into comas. Then, just as suddenly, everyone awakens–none the worse for wear. Or so it would seem, for later, many women in this small hamlet are found to be pregnant! Once these little bundles of joy are born, the fun begins as these brilliant but disturbingly freaky kids slowly scare the crap out of everyone–especially as they walk, talk and look alike and speak as one (sort of like an evil version of Huey, Dewey and Louie)! And, it turns out, they are apparently unstoppable and up to some sort of evil (though exactly what they intend is uncertain–but it MUST be bad considering their evil proclivities)!

NOTE: Do NOT see the supposed sequel, “Children of the Damned”. It’s terrible. Instead of the kids harassing people (such as making them crash their cars into walls or blow their heads off), the kids are misunderstood and only want to live in peace!! What crap–I want murder and global domination!

Another NOTE: Do NOT see the recent remake of “Village of the Damned”. It lacks the subtlety of the original and just does NOTHING to improve an already great film.

 

 

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CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED (1964)

Many of you out there can relate. When I was a kid, like any other kid, I adored Christmas. However, like most kids, there were times when I got presents that looked wonderful–until I opened them. Getting underwear or socks were such “presents”. Well, CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED is like a pack of underwear at Christmas. It looks great, you really anticipate it and when it arrives you are thinking “is this all that there is?!?”. That’s because the first film, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, was an amazingly good movie–one of the best of the 1960s. Yet, this eagerly anticipated sequel is a horrible, horrible film–rotten in just about every possible way. The only other original film and sequel that may be THAT different might be WILLARD (a fine film) and BEN (a sequel so saccharine that I feel nauseous just thinking about it).

So why is CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED so darn bad? Well, in the original, these “children” were alien creations with super-advanced brains and telepathic powers they used for evil. They viewed outsiders the same way we might view ants! Yet in the sequel, these children are creepy looking and gifted BUT they just want to be left alone and be given respect!!!!! What happened to all the terror?! In VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, the kids talked in a creepy monotone manner as one voice AND they used their powers to force people to drive into walls or kill themselves. Here, they just whine about wanting understanding!!! So, a sequel to a horror movie has become, instead, like a live action version of the comic strip “Wee Pals”!!! Ugghh!! Now that is scary!! The production values are okay–so I am giving it two stars. This is generous, as the plot is just horrid–an abomination and a complete waste of time.

By the way, in a blatant case of false advertising, look at the poster above.  These little creeps did NOT come to conquer the world–and the filmmakers knew it!  Shame on you for lying to the audiences like that!

 

 

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VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)

The original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) was one of the most brilliant, spooky and “best bang for the buck” movies ever made. With a tiny budget, it managed to do so much. So, why remake this wonderful classic? Other than to make a fast buck without spending much effort, I can’t see why. And, unfortunately, this does appear to be the reason why the film was made. Gone are the thrills and suspense. Instead of an eerie build-up, we have more gore and a movie that is a “dumbed down” version for people who insist on hi-tech films. In its place is a flat, pale imitation of the original. I don’t know about you, but I find that in at least 80% of the cases, the original is better.

So why does the film STILL get a 6? Well, with such a great plot it is almost impossible for the film to still be very watchable.  Plus, I will admit that the special effects were very nice.  After all, look at these little monsters!

Save your time and watch the original–it’s often on Turner Classic Movies and it’s available on DVD and video.

The Academy loved this one…I thought it was truly awful.

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In 1996, “Anotonia’s Line” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  However, I just thought the film was rather depraved and nasty.  This is not because I dislike Dutch films–there are many wonderful Dutch films (such as “Black Book”, “Twin Sisters” and “Yes Sister, No Sister”).  It’s also not because the film features gay characters–there are tons in “Yes Sister, No Sister” and I adore this movie.    Read my IMDB review below to find out more:

 

I felt VERY frustrated by this movie. It had so many WONDERFUL elements but the overall package was hopelessly baffling because it appeared as if the writers had no idea WHAT type of film they wanted to make. At first, the movie seemed quirky and comical when one of the characters imagined seeing grandma getting up out of the coffin during her own funeral while the statue of Jesus comes to life. I was excited, because I like surreal movies like “Happiness of Katakuris” or “Raising Arizona”. BUT, just as quickly as these images came, the movie completely changed direction. This sort of thing happened again and again in the movie–as if the film had eight different writers who combined their stories without creating decent segues to join the stories. Comedy, philosophy (not the fun type–the “life is futile and then you die” type), sex, love, lesbianism, anti-church rhetoric, ultra-feminism, child prodigy stuff, sexual abuse, murder, etc., etc. all thrown together do not make ONE coherent film but either many separate movies or one big mess. How this film got the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture, I am uncertain, as it had too many holes and left me so unsatisfied. Perhaps it was a slow year. Or, perhaps AMPAS (the Oscar people) just have contempt for traditional morality and so they are rewarding this film for its stand against traditional values.

A final note: although these many story elements are perfectly acceptable for adult fair, this is NOT a film for kids as the subject matter is VERY mature. Also, I was deeply disturbed by the families portrayed in the film because apparently, NOTHING was private or adult in this extended home. Two examples come to mind: the one scene where EVERYONE is making love like sex-crazed weasels so loudly that the little girl yelled at them to be quiet so she could get to sleep AND the scene where this same person (now an adult) is debating whether or not to have an abortion–while each child in the family tells her their opinion! This is sick and the family demonstrates a complete lack of reasonable boundaries. I’m not suggesting adults need to be prudes, but the idea of putting kids in these situations seems abusive and disturbing. If these types of situations are thrust on kids, what’s next–showing them step-by-step photos of a prostate exam?

 

Weird, clever and very sweet–this is a great Dutch import!

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Not only did I have more fun watching this DVD than any film, but I did something I never did before–I ended up watching the movie again that very same night! I was utterly charmed by this wonderful Dutch musical-comedy and anticipate that I will probably see it again a few more times–it’s THAT good! I think a lot of the reason I loved the movie so much was that while bits and pieces of the film reminded me of other films, overall it was so unique and quirky that it’s got to be one of the most original films out there. In addition, when I heard the songs, I couldn’t help but swing in rhythm to the bouncy and adorable music! Despite not knowing Dutch and relying on subtitles, I can’t think of ANY musical that I enjoyed more because the songs are that catchy and kooky. They all have a charming old fashioned style with wonderfully funny lyrics.

The film itself has an early to mid-1960s look to it and although I noticed in one of the reviews that this movie was based on a TV series, the film looks even more like a film of a play in style. Plus, the sets look very fake, but I don’t mean that in a bad way–more like an idealized and perfect world that you know can’t exist but you really wish it did! Apart from great music, the film has a wonderful ensemble cast. The standout character is Mr. Boordevol who is a lot like a combination of Sam the Eagle (from The Muppets) and a crazed version of the AFLAC duck! He must have had a wonderful time playing such an outlandish character–and his voice was like something out of a cartoon! Other standout performers were Jet, an incredibly cute and shy young lady who is in love with Garrit, Garrit, a reformed burglar who has a wonderful voice, the Engineer (he has no name–and is just called “Engineer” throughout the film) as well as many, many others.

A word of note to parents–This movie was released by Wolfe Video–a Gay movie distributor. While there are two gay main characters, I really didn’t see this as a gay film, per se, but a film about many people–just two of which are gay. And, unless you are ultraconservative, I doubt if you would be offended or mind if your kids watch the film. I am a pretty conservative person myself, but really liked ALL the characters and let my teenager see the film–in fact, I nagged her until she watched it with me!

By the way, it took me three viewings to realize that the plot of this film is a slight reworking of Seuss’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE Christmas! Seriously!!

Busting all the dumb slasher film cliches….

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My recommendation of “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” is hardly surprising,  This little cult film has been noticed by other reviewers and I remember reading Leonard Maltin’s column on the film.  It manages to make a slasher film interesting–something I never thought possible.  While many folks love the “Friday 13th”, “Halloween” films and the like, I cannot stand them–mostly because they are poorly written and teat the audience like they are idiots.  But, with “Tucker & Dale”, anyone can enjoy the film….well, anyone who is old enough to handle the gore.  Yes, there is gore but it manages, believe it or not, to be FUN and you will be ashamed to admit that it’s FUNNY gore.  Don’t be surprised if you laugh as you see horrible things occur!  In addition, the film works because the characters (particularly Dale) are so likable.

While I would never recommend it as strongly as I recommend “Tucker & Dale”, you might also try watching “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead”–two films that are intelligent–something sorely lacking in most films in the genre.

A surprisingly good family film that even adults can enjoy.

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Now I am NOT going to say that “Hotel Transylvania” is brilliant, but I was impressed by it.  These days, CGI films have become very, very common–so common that they seem to zip in and out of theaters with little notice. There are, of course, some exceptions (such as the Pixar films), but when “Hotel Transylvania” came to theaters, it came and went without a huge amount of notice. Now that I finally saw it, I really wish the film had received much more attention, as it’s far superior to most CGI family films.

This film is a funny look at monsters from their point of view. To them, the humans are the enemy and see them as blood-thirsty beasts. The monsters are afraid of them and are actually amazingly gentle and likable. The main character, Dracula (Adam Sandler) is a very overprotective father and won’t let his daughter (Selena Gomez) leave their prison-like castle–afraid that those horrible humans will kill her! However, accidentally, a human shows up when Dracula is throwing a HUGE birthday celebration for his daughter! In order to prevent widespread panic, Drac convinces the young man (Andy Samberg) to dress like a monster and blend in…but the plan works too well, and Drac’s daughter falls in love with this horrible human!

“Hotel Transylvania” is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky–a newcomer to CGI, but a veteran of lots of excellent Cartoon Network shows, such as “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Dexter’s Lab”. I think he did an excellent job and think this, along with great writing, made this film fun for all ages–with lots of laughs for adults and kids alike–just like his TV shows. In fact, this is the strength of the film. It had wonderful characters, terrific dialog and a nice sense of humor. The CGI ranges from fantastic (particularly the backgrounds) to average.

So why, if I liked the film so much, did I give the film an 8 and not a higher score? Well, the movie had one area where it was deficient–the songs. Each time a song occurred, it slowed down the film tremendously. On top of that, the ending (which was one HUGE song and dance number) was really weak. It’s a shame, but a problem you can easily overlook. Overall, a fine family film that will interest adults just as much as it will appeal to kids–and that is something all too rare.