The Bloodening fails to live up to it's reputation
, 09 Jul 2010
Two stars may be a little on the harsh side for these titles, but the extra points that 'Village Of The Damned' would have garnered were very much snuffed out by the very unfocussed 'Children...'
In a staid but faithful adaptation of John Wyndham's 'The Midwich Cuckoos', every inhabitant of the village of Midwich loses consciousness simultaneously. When they awake, most of the women of child bearing age in are mysteriously pregnant (which gives room for some awkward exchanges surrounding a married couple who obviously haven't 'pushed the single beds together' in some time). When they reach full term, they all give birth to creepily impassive, glowing-eyed peroxide blonde offspring. They develop preternatural intelligence and eloquence, and refuse to socialise outside of their stony-faced group.
I wish I could say this led to some fascinating scenes of carnage, or quiet menace, or psychological insight, but I'm afraid this is just not the case. Once the set up is in place, and with little questioning from the nominal lead characters, the problem children are largely left to their own devices. Sure, they can control the thoughts and actions of the townspeople around them with their creepy hive mind antics, but the simple truth is that they generally don't. There are some interesting allegories that you could unpick from the central conceit, about the Cold War (more of which in the kind-of-sequel), about insular communities in rural England (but little of insight), and perhaps slightly more pertinently about adults' fear of children, the odd mixture of vulnerability and defiance, their penchant for running in packs, and perhaps the simple fear that the next generation's achievements will invariably undo, alter or outstrip the current generations.
But in all honesty, these themes are to be reached for rather than explored, and the film makes do with a dry run through of the book's key plot points without pausing to consider why we, as an audience, should care, when even the characters themselves can't rouse themselves to question these events.
Sadly for the second film in the set, 'Children Of The Damned', the filmmakers didn't even have the solid plot mechanics of a novel to fall back on, and that shows in a limp, scattered attempt to capitalise on a surprise success. Featuring none of the events of the first movie, but presuming a knowledge of them, we are introduced to some of the children mentioned by one of the anonymous Government types in the earlier film. After being introduced to Paul, the blond-mopped Londoner (whose flat is on my street in London Bridge, which provided perhaps the only few minutes of genuine interest in the film) slowly torturing his Mother with the obligatory creepy stares and occasional bouts of mind control. After he makes her walk in to oncoming traffic, two more sketchily-defined scientists, one straight-laced, one lecherous to the point of parody (but who share a comfortably appointed bachelor pad...) attempt to 'science' the boy somehow, to find the clues to his super intelligence. They let slip that there is a veritable Gap advert of young, identically stony-faced international stereotypes (the Director wisely decides against the white-blond bowl cut for these) for Paul to go and join forces with. For what purpose? Well, they don't seem sure, and neither do the writers.
Perhaps that ambiguity is necessary as a MacGuffin to provoke man's baser, warmongering instincts, and create a parable for the ages? Well, not really. In point of fact, nothing of note really happens. I'm more than willing to overlook period trappings, and avoid comparing films from almost a half-century ago to those of today and expect them to live up to the same standards (in fact I love the radically different pace of films from this era), so I wasn't expecting a thrill-a-minute shocker here. But to think this was released a mere 5 years before Rosemary's Baby, well, just goes to show that there really isn't much here to recommend it. Unless you happen to live on the same street as me, and you want to see what it looked like in 1964. In which case, hello neighbour, skip to the 12-minute mark and then press eject.
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