Movie: The Village
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan
I went into this having heard nothing about it. After the lame Signs, I was not expecting much but hoping for better. From the reviews I've read since seeing the film, it sounds like most critics went in expecting way too much and came away disappointed. While nothing like The Sixth Sense, this is a good film. The first thing I liked about it is that it feels so different from a modern film. The village is in a different time period, a different world, with different values. Sure, some aspects of it feel like a weak imitation of an Amish town, but overall one gets these feeling that these people live in a paradise. There's only one problem: the woods surrounding the village are filled with strange creatures who kill any who enter there. So there's atmosphere of fear in the town, as everyone is nervous of "Those Who Shall Not Be Named" (yeah, I agree, that agreeing to not name them names them, and that's lame)
The second thing I liked about the film is that the twists work. No, they are not as earthshattering as those in Sense, they are predictable, and the revealing is more than a little gimmicky, but if you strip away the fanfare you have what is a simple, beautiful situation that makes sense from all angles. What makes the "twist" is simply that we are given information in the order we are given it, not that the information itself is so shocking. I can see where some people might be disappointed by the lack of a spectacular ending, but I liked it. It was in keeping with the simple, innocent lifestyle of the characters of the movie.
Third, I liked Night's direction and simpleness of the film. There's nothing especially horrifying or scary in the film -- it's very mild in that regard -- but Night keeps us on the edge of seats by constantly implying that there might be something scary coming. I think he's even playing on his own reputation here, teasing us. There's a great scene where the girl is alone in the woods and we're thinking a creature must be nearby and he shows shots of empty woods for long periods and after a few seconds you're wondering if you saw movement. That's exactly what happens in real life in such a situation: you really only have to fear fear itself.
Another thing I liked about the film was the acting. I predict Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard's daughter), will jump to stardom from this role. She was excellent as the blind heroine. All the others were also good, though few were given as much material as her.
All this is not to say this a great film. It's good -- I enjoyed it and found it fascinating -- but there's not much depth beyond the mild twists. It could have, except that Night's not that kind of writer-director. I'd love to see what a genius like David Lynch would have done with this kind of premise. The world of the village is so steeped with fear, secrets, and past horror while on the surface being so tranquil and innocent that it would fit right into the Lynchian world. He would get inside these characters, tear back the veil, expose the secrets. Night just has the secrets to give him a twist ending and thus the secrets are mere device instead of being a core character element of the film. That's too bad, but it's still makes for a decent movie. The movie has other flaws as well, such as the lack of explanation over Adrian Brody's character's actions, a lack of plot other than the "creature versus village" concept, and some things I think sounded great on paper but were weaker on film. For instance, a key dramatic moment in the film is the journey of the blind girl (Howard) traveling by herself through the forbidden woods for medical help. While that sounds like awesome drama -- she's blind, she's alone on a long journey in the scary woods, and the creatures are stalking her -- in reality it came across as forced and unbelievable (She's really able to journey miles through the woods blind? How come she doesn't fall over logs and stuff every few steps? How does she know which way to go?). Anyway, the film's not perfect, but I liked it. It has an interesting sociological message (one I'm not sure I disagree with). I did wish it had more depth, but I wish that about most movies. Obviously there's plenty of silly Nightism to mock and critics will, but that's really not fair, it's like making fun of basketball stars for being tall. It's their nature. And Night's films are all about the setup for the twist and he controls our senses to manipulate until he's ready to unveil his secrets. The point isn't that those secrets are so exciting or unusual, but that we enjoy the ride. This movie is different enough that I did just that.