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In the small rural town of Midwich a dark shadow passes overhead and very soon all the inhabitants – including the animals – lose consciousness. The police and army are obliged to set up a barrier to prevent any outsider succumbing to the same phenomenon. When the people come-to it is discovered that all of the women are pregnant. A representative from the government persuades the frightened budding new mums to keep them. When they are all born on the same night, it becomes obvious that these are not normal children. All are white-haired, have psychic or telekinetic powers and are very advanced in terms of intelligence. When they become dangerous, the whole town is in fear. Only a humble schoolteacher seeks to block them from his mind. But is it enough...?
The arrival of a John Carpenter film is always a cause for celebration in my opinion. Being a big fan, I consider most of his projects to be timeless classics. This one is a little different. It’s a needless remake of the 1960 black and white classic, which is itself based on the John Wyndham novel, The Midwich Cuckoos. I always wonder at the curious need Hollywood has to update perfectly good old films. It only displays a blatant lack of ideas. I can only assume it’s a purely money-making exercise, with the motive being to entertain a new generation of short-sighted people who won’t watch anything unless it’s in colour.
Which brings me neatly to Carpenter’s own reason for making this movie. He’s readily admitted that he only did it for the money; he was approached and offered the dosh, so he took it. That’s why this isn’t a Carpenter project in the normal sense. It’s not written or produced by him, and so wouldn’t be as close to his heart – or ours as fans. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t put his own trademark stamp on the movie. Certain direction techniques are noticeable so that the remake is faithful whilst being brought into the – then – correct decade, with a little more impact for the deaths or injuries. Of course, where Carpenter makes his greatest impact is in the music score, which he handled with Dave Davies. Accompanying the closing credits you’ll hear the full main theme. Great stuff.
The film is quite slow for the first ten minutes or so, with the quaint little town being portrayed as peace and harmony personified. A little too twee, perhaps. Things quickly pick up though; the phenomenon which makes everyone pass out, and the subsequent consequences are well-handled. The appearance of the children’s eyes is enhanced and exaggerated, not only lighting up but even intensifying and turning a different colour. A little heart is written into the plot by having one of the boys act human in certain regards – unlike the others. This leaves the ending open to interpretation and a possible sequel which never happened – at least for this one. There was a sequel to the original, called Children of the Damned.
Kirstie Alley, of Cheers, plays a government scientist who tries to study the situation but quickly gets well out of her depth. Mark Hamill (Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, and animated Batman’s The Joker) is the local priest. However, this film will probably be most remembered as being the last full film for Superman’s Christopher Reeve, before his ultimately fatal horse riding accident.
So, if you haven’t seen the original you’ll probably enjoy this, even if it doesn’t knock your socks off. If, like me, you have seen the original – or, even better, read the book – you’ll almost certainly just think ‘why?’ There is only a trailer on offer here; that’s more than a little disappointing, as John Carpenter’s commentaries are some of the most informative and entertaining (not to mention self-deprecating) I’ve heard. But as I don’t think he sees this as one of his personal pet projects, I suppose it’s not surprising.
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