Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 4, 2021)
Back in 1960, Village of the Damned did respectable box office. Potentially inevitably, this led to a sequel four years later with 1964’s Children of the Damned.
In the first film, unexplained occurrences caused various kids to receive immense mental powers that veer into psychic domains. Researchers gather six of these youngsters from around the world and take them to be studied in England.
All this poking and prodding doesn’t sit well with the urchins, though. The kids manage to escape and hole themselves up in a church, where they face off against authorities in ways that might cause major repercussions.
Due to Blu-ray release dates, I came to the 1960 Village after I saw John Carpenter’s 1995 remake. While the latter became a dud, the original worked pretty well.
That led me into Children with moderate expectations – sort of. The fact it took four years to get the sequel into theaters – an eternity in the 1960s – and the absence of returning creative talent kept this hopes minimized, though.
As far as sequels go, Children seems… okay. The film neither excels in its exploration of topics, nor does it flop.
The two movies come with different tones/emphasis, as Children presents the super-smart tykes in a much more sympathetic manner. Whereas the kids of the first film exist mainly as an ominous threat, the sequel makes it much less clear that they possess dire motives.
Indeed, Children mainly leaves us with the impression that the kids don’t plan anything terrible. They only get violent when others force them to go that way.
I suppose one could view Children as an analogy for the “generation gap” that seemed increasingly glaring in the counter-cultural 1960s. In the span that separated the two movies, youth culture became more independent and eager to smack back at elders, and Children seems like it shows that influence.
While I appreciate that Children doesn’t just remake the original, all this leaves the movie without as much dramatic impact. The sequel progresses at a fairly slow pace, and that becomes a liability.
Actually, the first acts works fairly well, as we get to see the attributes of the kids and issues related to their fatherless backgrounds that feel reasonably intriguing. The opening chapter of the film manages to draw us in to the tale.
After that, though, we get little more than a series of standoffs between various adult authorities and the kids – with the requisite Cool Grownups Who “Get It”. Again, a lot of this feels like a token representation of the “never trust anyone over 30” concept, and it tends to make the story somewhat one-note.
Still, the actors do pretty well, as the various adult performers enliven the underdrawn script to make their roles engaging. The different kids get little to do beyond look creepy, but they pull off those requirements and happily avoid any urges to break character.
Honestly, I can’t find much about Children that I can actively criticize, as it offers a serviceable and reasonably watchable extension of Village. However, it never quite finds the groove it needs to offer anything especially stimulating.