The Village review by The Grim Ringler
With his first three major films, director M. Night Shyamalan created not just gripping films, but a name brand. And while thats great for the box office receipts and good for the fans (hell, it gives us something to look forward to), it can be bad for a career. Look at John Carpenter, a director I still love, but his films now, where once people knew his name and revered it as the sign that they were in for something scary, has become just another name. Oh, him. If you set the bar high, if you brand yourself, then sometimes, when you miss the mark, that branding, can come back to haunt you. And with The Village, the worm has turned for M. Night Shyamalan.
Set in a small, isolated village, this is the tale of a town who dares not enter the woods which separates them from the rest of the world lest they incur the wrath of creatures that are said to walk the forest. No one dares speak the name of what lay within the forest, just as no one dares to enter those dark woods for fear of what might happen. But when signs begin to appear in the village it appears that the peace the town has had with the things that live within the woods is about to end, setting the people into a panic. And when tragedy strikes the village there seems to be no choice but to brave the woods, and those that lie within it, in the hopes of finding medicine from a nearby town. But what the brave soul cannot tell iswhere are they and what do they want? And is it safe?
This is a very quiet story, and while it may look it in the trailers, this is not a horror film. What horrors there are are short lived, making this more of a thriller. Which isnt a bad thing, but this isnt a terribly good thriller. In essence its a message picture, and while I may agree in the most part with what Mr. Shyamalan has to say, his message gets in the way of the film, as does his need for a twist. And sadly, by the time the final act is playing out, we can guess what is going to happen. And that sucks. This is very well made film, but a well-made mediocre film is still mediocre, no matter how great it looks. The acting is well done, though very reserved, and its beautifully filmed, and dammit, the guy can make a great, suspenseful movie. But if the heart of the plot aint there, it just aint there. And that sucks cause until the final reel, I really liked the film and liked where it was going, but in trying to say something he betrays the essence of what he was doing and cheats the audience out of what was promised, and that sucks. I appreciate that he had the story in mind and this was what he wanted as a director and filmmaker, but dammit, the guy leads us on, and as a fan of him, I am sorta pissed. This is a perfect example of the filmmakers letting their ideas get in the way of the story, and that isnt what its about. The point is to tell a story and to slide the message into it. It worked in Signs because the story was about faith at its heart, and while this is a love story, it is also about fear and for a movie about fear it sure does lose steam.
Sadly, there is a twist, a couple, in the film so I wont go too deeply into things, but needless to say I would rent it before Id pay full price to see it. Yes, there are scares, and yes this is a very well made film, and I would far from say I hated it, but I am very disappointed in it. I think that for many directors this is a decent movie, for someone as proficient in twisting our expectations as an audience and in creating a very particular sort of tension, this is a letdown. It might be a better film on the second viewing as all expectations are gone and we can just go and watch the story play out and get into it that way. But for me, and for the people I was with tonight, this was not what we had hoped for in the least. And for me, I hope this is a minor setback in what is still a wonderful career from a terrific filmmaker. My recommendation? Rent it, or see it cheap.
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