One of the most enjoyable and spooky movies I have ever seen was director M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Sixth Sense. It had just the right mixture of creepiness, suspense and terror. Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy his movies is (aside from being a terrific director) he can cast so well. Haley Joel Osment, the creepy boy in the Sixth Sense who sees ghosts, is the best child actor I have ever seen in a movie. I try to see any new movies he puts out.
I knew by now I could expect a twist ending from The Village. But the ending is not quite a surprise; I had figured most of it out before the young lady Ivy even left the village. You probably will too. The plot involves an isolated village that exists in the middle of an undisclosed forest. There is no road in or out. The residents of the village never go outside the carefully demarcated village boundaries. Torches on posts line the edge of the village and are lit at night to ward off – what exactly? Well if you knew that there would be no point in seeing the movie. At one time an evil creature from the woods came and caused trouble in the village. But that was long ago. The story opens with a new generation coming of age. The nameless and largely unseen thing in the woods starts making signs that suggest it is time for the villagers to start packing.
The village is run by a council of elders all of who are middle age. After a while it seems rather odd that there are no old people in the village. Everyone in the village is dressed in nice clean 19th century garb. Except for the dead and furless livestock left around the village to creep out the residents its seems a pretty happy and idyllic place. Yet no one seems to want to take a stroll into the woods.
I won’t give out anymore of the plot because I don’t want to spoil the movie for you. But I can say that it follows Shyamalan’s tradition of genuinely suspenseful but not gory films. He understands quite well that timing, acting and what you cannot see but happens off camera is a hell of a lot scarier than the real thing.
The acting is generally very good. Joaquin Phoenix is the biggest name in the film, although there are a lot of well-established actors from movie blockbusters of the past among the elders. They include William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. But the younger actors actually are more convincing and seem better cast than the older actors. The main character is a new actress named Bryce Dallas Howard. She plays Ivy: a blind young woman who must leave the village to go to a town to get medicine for her fiancee, who is dying. She may be a new actress but she shines in her role. She has one of these radiant faces that just captivate the viewer.
And yet the presence of just the right characters such as Ivy makes the movie less plausible. Who better to go to town than someone who can’t give a report of the outside world? There are other aspects to the film like this that detract from its believability. For example there is the dialog, which is full of very simple words and oddly constructed sentences that often sound like bad movie dialog. And there are other peculiar things about this village that will keep your mind fully engaged in puzzle mode. For example although they seem God fearing there are no churches.
But movies are all about suspending disbelief. Try to put its minor flaws out of mind and just enjoy The Village for the surreal experience it is. And the good news is that overall it is worth seeing. Yet I wish it hadn’t ended quite so abruptly. It left a number of unanswered questions. Having invested a lot of emotional energy caring about some of the characters, particularly Ivy, I would have liked to have had a few plot points cleaned up before the film cut to black.
I give it a 3.3 on my 4.0 scale.
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