I felt similarly hoodwinked when I saw "The Sixth Sense" and, more so, "Signs". Shyamalan has this problem: his last-reel surprise or shock that he plans falls absolutely flat. And, the fear he tries to create en-route is not really adult stuff. I wonder whether even modern teenagers would care for this kind of scare-fest.
In "The Village", Shyamalan takes us to a remote hideout of men, women and children in 19th century Pennsylania. They have barricaded themselves with a thick forest, where and beyond which reside evils in several forms. An eerie groan at night highlights the mood of terror, that hooded guards try and keep out with watch-towers and huge fires. The evil in the woods is supposed to lurk in red, and so nothing red goes in the village. No berries, and perhaps no tomatoes.
Otherwise, the village seems happy and carefree with a wonderful communal rapport, barn dances, common meals in the open and, of course, love and disappointment. Newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard as blind Ivy Walker is excellent as the girl who falls in love with her sister's suitor, Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt. It is this part of the story where Shyamalan delves into disillusionment and hope that appealed to me, because it is here that I thought that the director was being honest and far less hypocritical. The scenes where Ivy conquers her handicap and fear to save her love are narrated and shot with verve and spirit that the rest of the film lacks.
Adrian Brody as the village idiot is convincing enough to that reel when he acts one. But the moment Shyamalan decides to give him additional responsibilities, he falls and fails in a way that I felt that that the director was swinging his bat in the air !
Shyamalan needs to grow up, and despite an impressive star cast of Sigourney Weaver and Brendan Gleeson among others, the director fumbles in the dark forest.
(This review was posted on this website on September 16 2004)
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