Martin Stephens did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Zellaby in The Village of the Damned.
The film very much depends upon the potential creepiness of children through its monsters being a group of blond haired, light skinned, kids. Now their very image is off putting, particularly when they are all together, but a little more is needed that little more being Martin Stephens. Stephens plays the only one of the odd children who speaks. Stephens's speaks with an excessively articulation that is most off putting. Although it should be noted that they rerecorded Stephens's lines which makes his voice all the more disturbing since it seems partially detached from the image. Stephens's voice is incredibly creepy though since he does not make anything specifically monstrous about it. He instead delivers his lines as a proper English schoolboy, a too proper English schoolboy for sure, and the sophistication of his voice makes him seem truly alien.
Stephens's work goes beyond merely being the only one of the children who speaks. There is more tasked from Stephens as David also acts as the child who explains a bit of their intent, and philosophy of sorts to his "father" Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders). The philosophy being a maniacal lack of emotion, and Stephens is terrific in realizing this in his hollow expressions. He adds a bit more there within that as there is always an eerie contentment in his description as though the lack of concern is the better way to exist. The film never allows their exact intentions to be explained other than general survival. There is a sense of dread created though and Stephens contributes greatly to this. The soulless quality in David that Stephens brings so effectively suggests a terrible intent since there is such a clear lack of empathy for what surrounds them.
This is technically a one note performance for the most part, but that is exactly the point. Stephens is not playing a real boy but rather a creature in boy form. Stephens though makes the most out of that one note as he is absolutely menacing despite his rather unassuming frame. Stephens brings the demonic presence to the part, and manages to make the eye glow scenes far more chilling than they would be otherwise. Now I wrote one note for the most part because at the very end of his performance there is a bit of emotion. It's just a brief second but Stephens's portrayal of David realizing he's made a terrible mistake is extremely satisfying due to his oh so consistent portrayal of David's contentment beforehand. This is a striking turn by Martin Stephens but I will say in the end this feels like a warmup. The warmup for his masterful turn as a "creepy kid" in the Innocents.