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The Village Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/03/2004

What has happened to M. Night Shyamalan?  He used to be so gifted as a filmmaker, but ever since his Oscar-nominated breakthrough, 1999’s The Sixth Sense, shocked the world, he has gone steadily downhill.  His follow-up, 2000’s Unbreakable, was a worthy successor, but his next movie, Signs, was not the film that I had hoped it would be.  Now, with The Village, it seems that Shyamalan has just given up.  How else can you explain why I figured out the “twist” within the first half hour of the movie?

The time is 1897, and the place is in the middle of Covington Forest in Pennsylvania.  The Amish-like villagers live in an isolated existence where they lead a simple life.  The village is led by a group of elders including Edward Walker (William Hurt), August Nicholson (Brendan Gleeson), Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver), Mrs. Clack (Cherry Jones), Robert and Vivian Percy (John Christopher Jones and Celia Weston), and others.  They try to keep a peaceful way of life, but that might be because they are afraid of what might happen if they don’t.  No one ever leaves or visits the village, since there are monsters, or as they call it, “Those We Don’t Speak Of,” in the woods won’t enter the village’s border as long as its residents don’t enter theirs.  They mark the borders with a barrier of torches that illuminate the village’s perimeter and the villagers take turns watching the woods from a guard tower, mainly manned by Finton Coin (Michael Pitt.)  All of the villagers dress in yellow cloaks, because that is the “safe” color, and they avoid the “bad” color, red, because it is the chosen color of the monsters.  August’s son Daniel has just died, and Alice’s adult son, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), wants to acquire some medicine from a nearby town so that might it help save some of the villagers in the future.  The elders shoot down his idea, not wanting to incur the wrath of the monsters.  As if that weren’t bad enough, some livestock end up being killed and skinned, and it seems that this is a warning that they should stay out of the woods.  Meanwhile, there are a few romances within the village.  Lucius tells Alice that he thinks Edward has feelings for her, but since he can never get up the actual nerve to touch her, he doesn’t try.  She tries to convince Lucius not to think about other people in the Other Towns outside of the village, because that might be dangerous.  Edward’s daughter, Kitty (Judy Greer), is in love with Lucius, but unfortunately, the love is not received.  Lucius is actually in love with Edward’s other adult daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is blind and tomboyish.  Ivy is good friends with Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), son of Robert and Vivian, who is the village’s mentally challenged resident.  Inspired by Noah’s childish innocence, Lucius thinks that it might be all right to go into the woods.  That doesn’t work though, and during Kitty’s wedding to Christop Crane (Fran Kranz), a man she has rebounded with, the creatures attack the village and leave more dead animals in their wake.  They accuse Lucius of inviting the monsters into the village and marking the doors with red splashes.  Fortunately, Edward forgives him, and later, Lucius and Ivy become engaged.  What turns into a possible happy occasion becomes tragic when Lucius is injured and Ivy must be guided to the Other Towns, led by Finton and Jamison (Jesse Eisenberg), to get medicine.  If she can make it out of the woods without being attacked by the monsters, she might be able to make it out alive and save the love of her life.

I actually had hope for this film.  I had seen the Sci-Fi Channel “documentary” “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan,” where Shyamalan claimed that he was upset about the filming of The Village and had blocked its release.  Up until I found out that it was all just a hoax, I thought he had masterminded a perfect conspiracy along the lines of The Blair Witch Project.  I had been hoodwinked into thinking that it was real, and even though it upset others, it was fun for me.  The movie itself though has little to be praised.

I can praise Howard, daughter of filmmaker/actor Ron Howard, in her first starring role.  She is a gifted actress who makes this movie work in what little capacity it can.

I think though that Shyamalan has possibly painted himself into a corner that he now can’t get out of.  He is so identified with his “twist” endings that they aren’t surprising anymore.  In fact, he had many opportunities to spoil the ending, making it not too shocking by the eventual end.  He is also not scary or creepy anymore.  I was rolling my eyes the whole time at the “monsters” in this movie that made the aliens from Signs look scary, which is sad.

The Village could have had promise, but Shyamalan dropped the ball on this one.  I don’t know if he will try to do another movie without a “twist” shocking ending again or if he might try to do another type of movie (his first two movies were actually 1992’s drama Praying with Anger and 1998’s family comedy/drama Wide Awake), but I hope he does it with more entertainment value than this one.  At least I should be surprised a little more.  I hope that he can invest in more shock value with his fake documentaries than his movies.

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