By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Suspenseful, creepy, and provides a number of good scares.
Seems like people are pretty evenly split on this film... I'll cut to the chase and say that I liked it. Now I didn't like it enough to buy it on DVD when it comes out, and maybe my positive review comes from the fact that 30 minutes prior I had come out of the very weak comedy Anchorman and this was vastly superior.
Nah, this is a good flick on it's own merits. And oh, BTW, this will be a spoiler-free review.
I feel kind of sorry for Shyamalan... he's really been put up on a pedastal, and it seems like people have higher expectations for his films. To be honest I think that people are waiting to see him fail. No pressure, though. Really.
Another thing that kind of detracts from the experience is the fact that you know going in that there is some sort of twist to the ending of his films. I have to say that for most of the film my mind kept working on what the twist would be instead of just kicking back and enjoying the ride. I did suspect what part of the ending would be fairly early on, but I didn't know the full extent until it was revealed. Oh, and the couple next to me whispering through the whole movie had a bit to do with dulling my enjoyment of it as well.
People, can you WAIT until the movie is over to ask questions if you don't understand what's going on? Do you not think that whatever question you have will be answered within the next 90 minutes or so? YEESH.
Ok, sorry, I'll move on now...
If a had to describe The Village in one word, I'd have to say: creepy. It was creepy in the same way that going in the basement late at night before finding a switch at the base of the stairs is creepy: Your rational mind knows that nothing will happen, but there's still that lingering feeling that something might. And in this case you know that eventually something will happen.
The basic story is that of a village in the late 19th century, established in a clearing surrounded by woods. There are mysterious creatures that live in these woods and the villagers are not to cross into their territory. An agreement was established long ago between these two groups, which keeps each from crossing the boundary. Although there is a level of fear, the villagers manage to live a happy existence overall, while watching the borders carefully just in case.
As expected, something happens to upset this balance, but in typical Shyamalan style, we're not really sure what that something is until much later. Things start going awry slowly at first but eventually escalate. The fun is in anticipating when and what will happen and the movie takes it's time doing so (in a good way).
Shyamalan makes excellent use of music to set the mood, and the cinematography of subdued colors seems to bring everything down a notch, so that when something does happen, it's that much more effective.
William Hurt was excellent as usual as the leader of the town. Sigourney Weaver had a role as both a council member and the mother of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix). To be honest, I found her presence to be distracting and it took me out of the film. In my mind I suppose I associate her too strongly with Ripley from the Alien series. Personally, I really don't see what the big deal is about Joaquin Phoenix... he plays morose really well, but that's it. He's a one note performer IMO.
BTW, the other thing that kind of took me out of the movie was when halfway through, I felt like I had been sucked back into The Blair Witch Project.
Interestingly, two of the better performances both came from characters that were handicapped: Adrien Brody as the mentally handicapped member of the village, and in particular Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy. The movie would fail or succeed depending upon her performance, and she carried it off beautifully. She really owned the screen with a quiet but powerful presence whenever she appeared.
Overall The Village is suspenseful, creepy, and provides a number of good scares.