You might remember that I recently reviewed The Sixth Sense because M. Night Shyamalan‘s newest film, After Earth, was about to be released and I wanted to remember a time when he made good movies. While watching that movie, I remembered that I actually enjoyed the first few movies Shyamalan did, and I really wanted to revisit all of them. Another reason I watched The Village is because it came out in the summer and now that summer is kind of sort of on its way, I like to revisit movies that reminder me of summer. There’s also one scene where Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard are looking out over a field from a front porch and there’s this mist hovering over the field and if you’ve ever lived anywhere that there were fields and it was summertime, well, it looked just like it. I’ve heard a lot of people say that The Village was the movie that took the classic Shyamalan twist a little too far and marked the decline in all of his subsequent films, and even though I don’t agree with the film being bad, I do think it suffered quite a bit because of the way the horrific elements were emphasized over the human story that the film is really about. There’s going to be spoilers in this review, so if you’ve avoided seeing the movie the past ten years, then everything is about to be ruined for you.
As she shouts “Say goodbye to THESE!”
A secluded village in the middle of the woods live by a strict set of rules in order to keep the creatures that surround the woods out of their community. Well, mostly those rules are just don’t go in the woods and don’t wear red, but still, don’t fucking break the rules. Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) breaks these rules by entering the woods and this results in the creatures entering the town one night. When a mentally disabled member of the community (played by Adrien Brody) realizes that the girl he has a crush on, Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), has feelings for Lucius, he stabs Lucius. When the elders of the community realize that Lucius will die without the proper medicine, Ivy’s father (William Hurt) sends her into the woods to retrieve supplies. When she expresses her fears of going into the woods, her father explains that the creatures aren’t real and shows her the costumes that are worn to intimidate people away from leaving the community because of how violent the outside world can be. Feeling some relief, Ivy goes out into the woods to get the medicine required for Lucius, but is still nervous as she is blind. She eventually gets to the place her father instructed her to go to, when she is then picked up by a car and taken to a ranger station. Ya see, the whole movie makes it look like it’s taking place in the 19th century or something so when you see a car, you’re surprised! It turns out that the group of “elders” were people who came together in a grief counseling center, as they had all experienced violent and tragic deaths of people close to them, and they decided to remove themselves from society. Ivy gets the proper medications and is able to make her way back into the village that’s deep in the heart of a forest preserve that shares the name of Ivy’s family.
It’s all your fault, bro.
That’s right, kids! Not one, but TWO twists in this one! Although, one twist happens halfway through the movie, so can you really call it a twist? It’s a plot device. The characters in the movie were just as misled by the charade as the audience was. I can see why people would think negatively of this movie in the sense that there were two “twists”, but I think those people just want to be cranky. I think the first time I saw this movie I was pretty disappointed at it not being scary or that it wasn’t a horror movie, but then I read an interview with Shyamalan where he said that it wasn’t intended to be a horror movie. At this point in his career, that shouldn’t have been too surprising, because even though Signs was a horror movie, Unbreakable wasn’t. It had twists, but that was really the only common theme running through those films. The reveal at the end of The Village, about how this village started and the fact that it was modern-day, was a little bit more of a stretch to come to terms with. The village itself looked like it had around 50 people who lived in it, but when the elders look at a photo of their lives before moving there, they didn’t really look that much younger and there aren’t even ten of them. So this small group of people had SO much sex with one another and were able to diversify their gene pool that much that there have been multiple generations who have never known life outside of the village? The “rules” of The Sixth Sense did require suspension of disbelief, but The Village required much more of that for you to believe the premise.
And that’s why I never let porcupines wear my clothes.
Going back to Shyamalan’s comments about the movie, he has mentioned that it was somewhat inspired by Wuthering Heights, and the idea of a love story that has some sort of unspoken supernatural elements to it. I don’t know shit about dick when it comes to Wuthering Heights, but if he was trying to make a love story that just happened to take place in a spooky, supernatural world, then I think he accomplished that. The first half of the movie does have some creepier segments to it, especially the scene where one of the creatures comes into the village, so I can see why people felt cheated out of the horror movie they expected. I thought that all of the performances were quite good, especially for a then relatively unknown Bryce Dallas Howard. I still stand behind Shyamalan’s technical skills as director, especially the way he can convey a mood in his films. The colors used and composition of his shots made you feel like you were really living inside this village, and two sequences in particular where Ivy is searching around to find her bearings and is in a state of confusion when Lucius’s hand finds hers and leads her to the right place, really show the strength of their connection and their relationship. I think those are probably my two favorite moments in the film, mostly because I’m so sappy and romantic. Is it a good horror film? No, not really. And even as far as the twists or surprises go, I could see how people would be annoyed by Shyamalan incorporating them AGAIN, but I think the fact that he was telling a love story with themes of isolation and the lengths the people are willing to go to protect the ones they love makes it totally acceptable to use non-conventional plot devices.
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