The Village

C'mon now, own up, who else was suckered into watching this dreary waste of money by the star studded trailer? The Village is a foreboding tale about, well, about a village but this is no ordinary village, oh no, this village is beset by some kind of evil. M. Night Shyamalan is the man in charge and it seems he has finally slipped up, after the success of The Sixth Sense and Signs, he was given a huge budget to write, direct and produce this film, he cast great actors and yet the end result is painfully bad.

We open on a supposedly 19th century village full of dowdy looking people as they ominously sit at a funeral listening to creepy noises from the woods. It emerges that spooky things are going on beyond the strange bastardised olde speak that everyone is uttering, the people of the village fear some creature which they think lives in the woods and no-one is allowed to leave. The village and clothes look authentic enough, everything and everyone in the village is terminally boring and the script is moronic backed up by laughable plot twists which make absolutely no sense.

Little Yellow Riding Hood

It is unavoidable to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it yet so if I haven't already convinced you to avoid watching this then don't read on. The Village seems to want to be a multi-genre film and it simply doesn't deliver on any level. Is it a horror, a thriller, a drama or a romance? The answer is a pretentious, garbled mess which is so unbelievably dreary and dour, so completely without any sympathetic character that it is like sitting through a Tory Party Conference.

Once the village has been established you start to get some impression of what is going on, the villagers are unnaturally scared of the forest, they all keep close to each other and talk in fearful voices about "those we don't speak of" whom they actually speak of quite a lot. Shyamalan piles on the tension as only he can by having dramatic music and confusing shots. At one point we are allowed a brief glimpse of fur and then the creature is gone.

In between the creature storyline with horror overtones we drift into romance as the poor wee blind girl Ivy (daughter of Ron Howard) falls in love with Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix). This doesn't sit well with the other strands of the story but Shymalan ploughs on regardless and throws in the village idiot Noah (Adrien Brody). Turns out the idiot is in love with Ivy too and so he stabs Lucius. This is the best scene of the film in terms of direction, but as a plot twist it just sucks. They now need medicine to heal Lucius (although I'm not sure of the over the counter cure for multiple stab wounds in the stomach).

Ivy's father Edward (William Hurt) decides to send his blind daughter into the woods to find the town and return with medicine to save her fiance. At this point in the film we still think there are creatures in the woods but as Shyamalan reveals later in a nasty cheating cutback scene, the monsters are fabricated by the village elders to scare everyone into staying in the village - they don't want anyone coming into contact with the outside world. This is the granddaddy of all sucky twists but he doesn't stop there, oh no, he has to include another perplexing twist which reveals that they are all living in a reserve in the modern day, hiding from the cruel world, boo-hoo and choosing to live as dour morons who call yellow "the safe colour" and terrorise their children by dressing up as creepy creatures and skinning animals. At one point the elders/creatures attack the village during a wedding, why would they ruin a villager's wedding?

Lucius and the village idiot

The cast is really promising, William Hurt is usually good but his character here is awful, he leaves the most ridiculously long pauses between everything he says as we are treated to scenes which emanate dullness the whole while willing the drawling fool to just spit it out and go away. Adrien Brody has done the hammiest village idiot character imaginable complete with drool and inappropriate laughter. Joaquin Phoenix is thoroughly wooden, mainly because he is given hardly any lines and they all have to be delivered quietly and seriously, in fact quiet and serious is the mood of the whole film. Sigourney Weaver looked to me like she couldn't be bothered and I can only imagine she realised what a bore fest this really is.

The script is cringingly bad from the thick modern guy's take on how they spoke in the olden days to the ridiculous notions that the village elders have imposed such as banning the colour red. The scenes are long and drawn out, there are long periods during which no-one says anything or they say it very, very slowly. The constant musical drama continually suggests that something approaching exciting is going to happen but it never does.

It is all too apparent that M. Night Shyamalan thought he was being terribly clever here. Well he isn't, it appears yet another head has swelled beyond all reasonable size causing a severe brain malfunction which leads him to believe this is any way an acceptable film to charge people money to watch. This is an unpleasant dreary waste of time and I curse those who inflicted it upon us.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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