I knew M. Night Shyamalan's The Village was in trouble when I laughed out loud at the first glimpse of the ghostly antagonists (referred to as
"Those we do not speak of"). The cheesy red costume complete with warthog snout and protruding twigs may have worked in the trailer
(you never really get a good glimpse of it), but in the film itself, is one of the worst looking costumes I have ever seen in a thriller.
But maybe it's unfair to call The Village a thriller. It never comes even close to thrilling.
The plot revolves around a small colonial settlement surrounded by a creepy forest. The village elders have a truce with "those we do not
speak of." "We do not enter their woods, and they do not enter our village," a subdued William Hurt informs us. Hurt is a village elder and
his blind daughter, Ivy, (a phenomenal performance by Bryce Dallas Howard - one of the few positives in the film) marries Lucius Hunt,
played by a half asleep Joaquin Phoenix.
One day Lucius is stabbed by the village retard (Adrien Brody), for no other reason than him being retarded. Lucius needs medicines only
available by traveling through the woods and to the nearest town. So, of course, they send Ivy... the blind girl...
The journey begins what turns out to be a suspenseless and ridiculous string of stupid twists, one more laughably overdone than the next.
The saddest of all is the ending, which somehow manages to stretch way longer than it needed to and, in the end, still feels abrupt. There is
so much talent in this film that it is stunning how bad it is.
Other than the performance of Bryce Dallas Howard, the colorful, sharp photography, and the score by James Newton Howard, nothing
I think it all stems from the script itself. Shyamalan is more concerned with loading the film past the breaking point with wacky twists than in
actually creating involving characters, or even some genuine scares. The Village is more drama than horror, yet still bases itself on the
suspense of "those we do not speak of."
Coming off his magnificent Signs, perhaps expectations were a bit too high for this film. Shyamalan seems as if he is trying too hard to
justify the praise he has received instead of just making a quality movie. I still think he has the potential to become an excellent director,
but The Village is a bad film any way you stack it.
(out of four)
Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien
Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan
Cinematography by: Roger Deakins
Music by: James Newton Howard
Released: July 30, 2004; 108 Minutes