Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Village (2004)

I remember when this film’s trailers came out, I was pretty eager to see it. It looked like an interesting film. However, it was around this time that Shyamalan started rubbing folks the wrong way. I heard some really negative things about the film and ended up missing it. But it popped up on Netflix download and I figured, what the hell, why not give it a shot.

In a small, secluded village in Pennsylvania a community struggles to survive, not just against the powers of nature and fact that they are using 19th century technology – but there is something in the forest that holds them in terror. The elders of the village lead by Edward Walker (William Hurt) have a set of rituals and rules that the village must follow if they are to survive. This includes never using the color red.

In this village Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) discovers secrets buried in the hearts of these rituals. He begins to suspect that the elders aren’t telling the people the whole story. His friend, the lovely but blind Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) cares for him a great deal, even if he is the black sheep of the village. Her kindness has won the heart of a mentally disturbed man named Noah (Adrien Brody) who appears to have encountered the creatures in the forest, and lived to tell the tale (in his own unique way). These three will find themselves forced to face the darkness beyond The Village and either bring hope to their community or destroy it forever.

Good Points:
  • A visually gorgeous film with excellent cinematography by Roger Deakins
  • The score by James Netwon Howard is haunting and effective
  • A solid premise and interesting take on the hero’s journey

Bad Points:
  • Stilted dialogue ends up hurting performances and deliveries
  • The twist ending will land with a thud for some viewers
  • The slow pace will not work for some folks

An interesting movie that nearly works, but ends up stumbling a bit by the end. Shyamalan is one of those directors who does great work with visuals, but needs to work with a screenwriter to get dialogue and flow hammered out. Performances seem stiff and stilted at times, but I believe it is the odd dialogue and phrasing. I understand that is supposed to be archaic sounding, but it just doesn’t work. If you can get past that, you’ll find film with wonderful visuals, a lovely score (with excellent violin work by Hilary Hahn) and one of the few times in a Hollywood film of the era where a woman takes on the classic hero’s journey.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 4
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Sounds interesting. I'm going to give it a go too. :)

    1. Hope you enjoy it. The visuals and music are worth experiencing.

  2. I rather liked this film but I haven't recommended it to anyone precisely for the reasons you cite. I don't mind leisurely pacing so long as it is going somewhere, or a horror flick that is atmospheric rather than gory; some viewers are likely to grow impatient, though, even though 108 minutes isn't especially long.

    1. Yeah the build of the story was handled pretty well. I felt it allowed you to enter the world of the villiagers a bit more before the real creepy stuff kicked in.

  3. I haven't seen this film, though caught some of it off TV one time, and it didn't seem too bad. I like Shyamalan ok, he certainly has a certain style, but I don't know that his approach always interest me. I did enjoy The Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable, but they are not the type films I care to revisit. For one, both films end with the uncovering of a mystery, and once it's revealed, that's sort of it, unless you just wish to see all the build up again. I see he is currently working on a new film, I think slated to come out this year.

    1. Yeah, his work tends to revolve around the twist ending. But I it is neat to revisit the films and see how he hints at the ending and builds it along the way. The "Sixth Sense" has some interesting clues scattered about it.

      As for this one, its worth checking out for some of the stylistic reasons, but yeah, once the twist is revealed I can see some folks just throwing up their hands.

  4. Shyamalan has had an interesting run.

    The Village is a decent film. There were things I really did like about it. I was never surprised by the ending and sort of figured it all out earlier in the film but it was still entertaining overall. I actually wouldn't mind seeing it again for some of the performances and the mood of the picture.

    But it's funny, I have a friend who absolutely LOVED the movie. So, Shyamalan has his detractors and his supporters.

    The Sixth Sense was good. Unbreakable was good. The Village, good too. I think Signs is my favorite by him.

    I have not seen many of his later films, Avatar, The Happening or that other one with Ron Howard's daughter. Did you like any of those?

    1. Yeah, I ran into a couple folks who think this is Shyamalan's best film. Not sure if I'd go that far. But the atmosphere and mood are very striking. I need to give "Signs" another spin. I remember being annoyed by the way water played into the ending. Seemed like a major misstep by the aliens. But it did have an excellent build up and some really creepy moments.

      I've seen "Avatar" and " The Happening" and both have the strange stilted dialogue problem. In "Avatar" you can let it slide a little bit because it happens in a fantasy world, and they don't have to speak like normal folks. But much like we see in "The Village", some of the performances are really weak because of the dialogue. The concepts, visuals and music are all top notch. But the visuals and concepts are based on an animated series - so you might be better off seeking that out.

      "The Happening" just falls apart. Once again, it has an interesting concept and some beautiful visuals and creepy atmosphere - but the performances are almost all shaky. And Wahlberg in particular is really really bad. The trio at Rifftrax took a swing at this one, and man did they do a number on it. It's a funny riff, and the movie really earns it.