|The Village (2004)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Brendan Gleeson
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
“The Village” is so spectacularly bad, in an Ed Wood/MST3K kind of way, that it’s almost likable. The execution is so deadly serious, so solemn, that it’s as if the thought never once crossed the minds of the cast or crew that the movie they were making was complete and utter garbage. The writer/director, M. Night Shyamalan, is obviously a talented filmmaker; his “Sixth Sense” will stand as one of the most beloved movies of the last 20 years. But where his other movies were solid with a major flaw in one part or another – “Unbreakable” had a great ending, but took too long to get there, while “Signs” had a great setup and a terrible ending – “The Village” suffers from the most fatal flaw of all: It assumes that the audience just isn’t that bright.
Set in the late 1800s, the residents of the rural Covington Village live in an idyllic community, but not without its price: The woods that surround them are haunted by unspeakable creatures. In fact, these creatures are so unspeakable that the townsfolk refer to them, no joke, as Those We Do Not Speak Of. The residents have a deal in place with Those We Do Not Speak Of: As long as the townsfolk do not enter the woods, the creatures will not enter the village. The deal is breached, however, when one Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) dares to enter the woods, if only briefly. Soon, pets turn up dead. There are red marks on the door. After an accident befalls one of the townsfolk, it is up to Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is incredibly brave but also blind, to head into “the towns” to find medicine and come right back. But she has to get through the woods first.
It’s hard to believe that this is Shymalan’s work. The dialogue, the direction, even James Newton Howard’s score, is heavy handed to the point of being amateurish. What ultimately kills the movie, next to the dialogue, is the editing. Had this been cut only slightly differently, the payoff could have provided a better overall experience. As it is, the final scene inspired gales of laughter from the audience.
I’m not sure exactly why I’m protecting the Shocking Twist, because it certainly doesn’t deserve to be protected. In the end, I suppose there is a greater good to be achieved here than spoiling the ending to a bad movie, and that is to prevent you, the reader, from losing two hours of your life. Shyamalan clearly admires Steven Spielberg, and with “The Village,” he’s just paid an odd tribute to his idol: He made his own “1941.”
For the few people that did enjoy M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller, the DVD release offers deleted scenes, the making-of featurette "Deconstructing The Village," a Bryce Dallas Howard video diary and a special home movie from the director. The one feature that is missing on this single-disc release is s full-length audio commentary by Shyamalan and cast defending the integrity of the film.