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The Village: How M. Night Shyamalan finally surprised me

Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) © Touchstone/Blind Edge

Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) © Touchstone/Blind Edge

"Yes I have risked, I hope I am always able to risk everything for the just and right cause. If we did not make this decision, we could never again call ourselves innocent, and that in the end is what we have protected here, innocence! That I'm not ready to give up." --Edward Walker

Back in 1999, M. Night Shyamalan was the next big thing, thanks to The Sixth Sense. As he released more films, reactions and thoughts about his first films were fairly unanimous. If you’ve seen any of these films, chances were I could predict your thoughts about them.

The Sixth SenseI loved it! I was blown away by the ending!

Unbreakable

It was good, but I don't know what to say about the ending.

Signs

I don't know. There was potential, but it was full of plotholes.

The Village

Wow, that was pretty bad!

If I guessed right, you’re on par with most people and supposedly “normal”. If I didn’t guess right, then you’re probably thought of as a “freak” and one of a few people, like me, to have polarizing opinions about Shyamalan’s films. I, for one, thought The Sixth Sense was predictable and boring, wasn’t very impressed by Unbreakable, and thought Signs had its moments of scares, fun, and drama. Now, the point where I most abruptly break away from most people is with The Village.

© Touchstone/Blind Edge

© Touchstone/Blind Edge

The Village was Shyamalan’s fourth film. It follows a small group of people that live in a secluded small village in what seems to be late 19th Century. The village is seemingly haunted by mysterious creatures referred to as “Those We Don’t Speak Of”, forcing villagers to stand guard at night and preventing them from venturing into the woods surrounding the village.

Released in 2004, it was mostly marketed by Touchstone as some sort of horror thriller. Unfortunately, the film was really more of a thriller/drama which seems to be one of the reasons that turned Shyamalan’s fans off. Also, some people weren’t that fond of the twist revelation near the end, which some say doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, or it’s simply nuts.

So with an already “broken” and “twisted” history with Shyamalan’s films (at least when compared to most people), I ventured into this film a couple of years ago. Look at my face of shock when I realized I loved the freakin’ film. From beginning to end, I thought it was nearly excellent. I revisited it about a month ago, only to end up liking it even more perhaps. Heck, if I were to make a Top 5 of films from 2004, The Village would probably be there.

Shyamalan managed to slowly build an atmosphere of dread and fear surrounding the innocent environment of the village. The way he crafted this fear, with the stories of “those we don’t speak of” and seeing people shy away from the forest, was extremely effective, thanks mostly to Shyamalan’s moody directing. As for the performances, none of them really blew me away, but I thought most of them were effective. William Hurt clearly shows his experience with what I would say is the best performance in the film; that of a conflicted and guilt-ridden person, yet driven for what he thinks is best for his people.

Edward (William Hurt) and Tabitha Walker (Jayne Atkinson) © Touchstone/Blind Edge

Edward (William Hurt) and Tabitha Walker (Jayne Atkinson) © Touchstone/Blind Edge

As for the revelation (or revelations?), I thought they were, in general, magnificently written and handled. There are three major twists or revelations in the film, the first of which I think was fairly obvious. I really don’t think Shyamalan thought it would be much of a surprise and he reveals it about halfway into the film, setting the climax of the film. The second revelation occurs during the climax, and was somewhat disturbing; not for what happened, but probably for what it meant. Was this intentional? Did the elders arrange it to happen that way? How driven are they to preserve their way of life? Now, the final revelation is the one that blew my mind. I must say I never really saw that coming, and the way it is shown, makes it completely believable. Rewatching the film after knowing what is happening, really adds a lot of depth to the dialogues and actions of some of the characters. How disturbing is it that people chose this way of life? Is it really disturbing? What does that say about our society? Was it a good idea? Can you blame them? think it is a very thought-provoking premise and one that lends the film to repeated viewings and further analysis.

So, as one of the few that actually loved this film, I encourage you to forget about what anyone else told you. Give the film a chance and decide for yourself whether this was Shyamalan’s fall from grace or his crowning achievement. For me, it’s easily the latter. Grade: A

The Village Official Trailer

Epilogue

As time went on, and Shyamalan released more films, fan reaction became more and more, how should I put it?... harsh towards them. Each subsequent film was more criticized than the previous one: Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth... only one or two recent ones are getting more favourable reviews. For some reason, I'm not sure if it was lack of interest, or just common sense, I've avoided all of those but I've still wondered "if so many people disliked The Village, and I loved it, could it be possible that I might enjoy one of these?". But even with that thought in the back of my mind, I've decided to postpone my viewing of those. Only time will tell.

More hubs about mystery films...

Comments

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on January 16, 2019:

I agree, Laura. I find it very rewatchable and have seen it a couple of times in the last years.

I think that what you mention is one of the beauties of the film; how it ends up turning the tables of what you expect it to be (is it horror? where are the creatures? etc.) IMO, what we end up with has a more profound relevance to me, or to society, than some mythical creatures.

I still haven't seen anything from Shyamalan after The Village, though. I'm curious about Split, but still haven't seen it.

Thanks for your comment!

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on October 30, 2018:

The Village tied with Signs as my favorite Shyamalan movie. Every time I watch it, I catch something new. I've heard some people say that they didn't like it because it wasn't what they thought it was. That has happened to me, but once you start accepting it for what it is, it's full of interesting questions, characterization, and suspense. I jumped off of the Shyamalan bandwagon after Lady in the Water, a lot later than most fans, but since seeing Split, I hope that he's back on track.

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on May 22, 2015:

Good to know. I see if I can check it out later. Thanks for the rec!

Travis Wood from Woodstock, Georgia on May 21, 2015:

Of course! It's been fairly good so far. I'm currently reading the book it's based on (my wife got me in on it) and I'm working on the second episode's recap now. Should be up later tomorrow.

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on May 21, 2015:

Not yet. To be honest, I don't even know much about it. I just know that Shyamalan is involved. Is it any good?

And thanks for the comment!

Travis Wood from Woodstock, Georgia on May 21, 2015:

I agree a lot with what you've said here. People expected a horror movie, but the scares are far more psychological.

Have you been watching Wayward Pines, and if so, what do you think of it?

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on March 09, 2014:

Thanks, sparkleyfinger. After The Village, I haven't seen any other Shyamalan film so I have no input in his other films other than the ones I mentioned here.

Thanks for the comment and the votes!

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on March 09, 2014:

Great hub on a great film! I really liked The Village, but to be fair I like all of Shyamalan's movies! Always unique with a twist! Voted up and awesome!

BrightMeadow from a room of one's own on September 08, 2013:

I was a Shyamalan fan up until Lady in the Water. I keep waiting for him to come back but I am losing confidence.

Sixth Sense was good, but Unbreakable made me a fan. It is the sense of quite about the films that keep you paying attention.

You don't explain which plot twists you are talking about when you mention how predictable some were but not others. I knew what one of the plot twists was during the wedding when Cherry Jones' character told Ivy the story about her sister. This twist was a good one I thought and the groundwork had been laid by the characters who preceded her in telling their reasons for coming to the village.

I thought the twist involving the creatures was revealed a little too prematurely.

I'm not sure what the third twist was but I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Shyamalan said that this film was about innocence. I could see that. I think that is one of the things I like about it most. I agree with you, it is a good film. I would encourage you to give Unbreakable another shot. There is something about the ending that lags a little-- where you are left going, "Okay, what now?" But over all, I thought it was a good film and a truly unique idea.

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on September 05, 2013:

Me too, cloverleaffarm. Actually, it's the only Shyamalan film I've seen more than once along with Signs.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on September 05, 2013:

I love "The Village", and watch it often.

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on September 04, 2013:

Wtotalk, thanks for your comment! Let's see what Abrams brings with the new Star Wars, hehehe!

Carlo Giovannetti (author) from Puerto Rico on September 04, 2013:

Dirt Farmer, I need to rewatch Unbreakable. I haven't seen it in 10 years or so. Check out The Village and let me know what you think. If you don't like it, blame me :-D Thanks for your comments.

W1totalk on September 04, 2013:

I thought the Village felt really good to watch and the end well you have to decide. I found myself mulling around internet preparing myself for what is JJ Abrams Star Wars. This made me feel better about it. Thank you again.

Jill Spencer from United States on September 04, 2013:

I really agree w/you about Unbreakable. Was it supposed to be-- a prequel or what? Anyway, that was the last Shyamalan film I wanted to see, but ... now you've made me want to see The Village, too.

IslandBites from Puerto Rico on September 04, 2013:

I really liked the movie. I agree, nice hub!

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