Every once in a great while, a horror film comes along that leaves audiences feeling deeply unsettled. So imagine what happens when two such efforts are issued in such a short period of time. Such was the case in late 1960, when both Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho — a film that most critics still rightfully consider to be the best horror film ever made — and Wolf Rilla‘s Village of the Damned hit theaters within two months of each other.
Whereas Psycho was a film that kept viewers unbalanced by shifting its dramatic focus to become a nuanced and shocking exploration of the evil that can lie with man, Village of the Damned challenged viewers beliefs on the innocence of children. Based on the 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (who also wrote The Day of the Triffids), Village concerns a small English village that is rendered unconscious, only to have its female residents later give birth to mysterious children.
These children — all of whom bear a creepy, dead-eyed resemblance to each other — grow up with superior intellect and the ability to speak telepathically to each other. Their seeming inability to show emotions or any sense of morality becomes terrifying to the village’s other residents, a fear that is understandably heightened when the locals begin dying in cruel and unusual ways. A professor who has been working with the British government to discover what is going on hatches a daring plan to understand the children’s true motive…and defeat them at any cost.
The performances by the children in Village of the Damned are truly unsettling, making viewers feel uncomfortable and causing more than a few bouts of nervous laughter. To think that the young could be so evil without thought or care for their fellow man is part of why the film continues to draw praise and admiration. It remains a classic chiller, one that has just been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.
You could say, if you’ll pardon the cliche, that the Village of the Damned is a great place to visit, but no one in their right mind would want to live there.