While he became a household name thanks to his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise and his sensational role as the definitive version of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, Mark Hamill might still have held the record as the world’s most valuable geek. Between voicing animated characters for various DC and Marvel projects, supporting Comic-Con culture, voicing Chucky in the rebooted version of Child’s Play, lending his voice to countless cartoons and video games, and appearing as himself for many cameo roles, Hamill has represented “geekdom” on the Internet in a way that may even rival Kevin Smith and William Shatner. However, Hamill is much more than just a “geek hero,” and anyone that doubts that he can also be a great actor needs to see his performance as Reverend George in John Carpenter's 1995 remake of the horror classic Village of The Damned.

Village of the Damned seemed like a sure bet on paper, and its failure makes it one of the most fascinating disasters within John Carpenter’s filmography. While Escape From L.A. and Vampires might have just been bad ideas from the start, the 1960 film was a classic in its own right. The idea of religious paranoia is seemingly right up Carpenter’s alley, as he’s frequently touched on religious persecution and adherence to traditions as one of his signature defining themes in films such as They Live, Starman, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, and In The Mouth of Madness. However, Carpenter’s Village of the Damned feels like more of a parody of the genre than anything, with Hamill as the only one doing his part.

Although he’s most often associated with his voiceover roles, Hamill is an accomplished actor in many live-action films. While the 1978 coming-of-age dramedy Corvette Summer and the 1980 war film The Big Red One weren’t necessarily considered to be classics, they certainly showed that Hamill was a capable leading man; he even returned to give a heartfelt, yet offbeat performance recently in the delightfully absurd 2017 independent comedy Brigsby Bear. Village of the Damned just goes to show how much he can add to a film, even one that isn’t working otherwise.

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John Carpenter's 'Village of the Damned' Is a Strange Remake

The original Village of the Damned was considered to be a breakthrough in the genre because it had more or less just focused on vibes; as with many horror films of the era such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders From Mars, there was a strong emphasis on paranoia and how the “ordinary” began to change as the otherworldly elements began to escalate. Village of the Damned worked because of the creepy vibes and escalation of the horror, but none of the characters really stand out. Theoretically, this is what may have drawn Carpenter to the project, as his 1982 classic The Thing was such an improvement over 1951’s The Thing From Another World because of the memorable new heroes he added with Kurt Rusell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David among others.

What Is 'Village of the Damned' About?

1995’s Village of the Damned is set within the coastal community of Midwich in California's Marin County, where the townsfolk experience a mysterious blackout overnight where they are unable to remember anything that occurs; in the short-term future, many non-sexually active women (including a virgin girl) become pregnant with mysterious alien-like children. This draws in an investigation from Dr. Alan Chafee, played by Clark Kent himself, Christopher Reeve, in one of his few roles outside his most timeless role as the titular hero of the Superman franchise. It seems like both Reeves and Hamill were enjoying the chance to play against type; perhaps Luke and Clarks’ unflinching sense of honor had grown irritating for them to continue emulating, and they simply wanted to avoid being typecast!

Since Carpenter’s Village of the Damned was trying to emulate the same creepiness that made the original film so effective, Hamill’s role as the creepy town minister Reverend George was necessary to capture the same atmosphere. The most successful horror remakes have always been those that can explore why the original themes are once again relevant; while 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers used the horror elements and paranoia as an allegory for the “Red Scare,” the 1978 film from Alan J. Pakula was able to connect to the growing sense of anxiety among Americans in the wake of Watergate, the Surveillance State, and the series of political assassinations that would also inspire conspiracy thrillers such as All The President’s Men, The Parallax View, The Conversation, Marathon Man, and Three Days of the Condor among others. If there’s anything that Carpenter’s Village of the Damned does differently it's the addition of the religious paranoia aspect, which Hamill’s character is integral to.

Mark Hamill Shows off His Horror Chops in 'Village of the Damned'

It makes sense that Mark Hamill would have been involved with such a high-profile horror project, as he has frequently noted his admiration of the genre. During an interview promoting his appearance in the horror anthology series Creepshow, Mark Hamill cited his long steadfast fandom of both Carpenter and classical horror. Having authored the horror comic book miniseries The Black Pearl and added horrific elements to the Batman franchise, it’s safe to say that Hamill knows his stuff. His horror fandom is apparent in Village of the Damned, as it almost seems like he understands the material better than Carpenter does.

John Carpenter doesn’t seem to have a solid grasp on the tone, as it navigates between truly horrific imagery of children in danger to ridiculous moments where mobs of religious persecutors try to murder children. Hamill adds so much to the film because Village of the Damned works best when it’s simply getting absurd and weird. Hamill is doing something completely different than he usually gets to do in his live-action roles, but anyone familiar with his work as a vocal performer can likely recognize the sort of campy ridiculousness that he adds to the role. A “cartoon character brought to life” is actually a pretty good description of Reverend George!

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