11 November 2010
I've been mildly obsessed with John Wyndham lately, who seems to have such a methodical and clinical approach to depicting creepy, subversive invasions, so I finally sat and watched the first of a couple of adaptations of The Midwich Cuckoos. It plays out like a smart b-movie, with a ton of exposition but a patient, steady hand telling an interesting story. Even the leaps of logic that get us to the "truth" of the matter leave most everything pleasantly ambiguous, which I always find more frightening and more believable than spelling it all out. What was the children's end-goal, exactly, beyond survival and propagation? And did they know about intelligent life in outer space or not? How exactly did the mass blackout facilitate the impregnation of all the village's women? I'm asking these questions precisely because they remain unanswered, and I am thankful for that level of obtuseness in the story. Overexplaining ruins a good mystery, and if there's no mystery there's no drama.
Technically the movie relies on some stoic acting from children (pretty easy), some creepy music (check), and an optical effect to make the eyes glow white. Occasionally the optical effect doesn't quite line up, and it's invariably creepier for the subtly misplaced shapes. A similar effect showed up occasionally on the original Star Trek series, and I always felt the same Uncanny Valley freakiness whenever the overlaid effect wasn't perfectly lined up with the original image.
I've got very little to say about this. It's good, in a "Twilight Zone" way, and it's sparse in a way that leaves little to complain about. It wraps up a little quickly, and the choice of making the main character a hopelessly optimistic professor seemingly incapable of doing wrong is an interesting one (even when people die from his hubris, he owns it immediately with that Wyndham clinicalness). But overall, it worked even better than I expected, and now my only question is do I watch the sequel or the remake next? Either way it'll be another night. It's late and I'm sleepy.