Today marks the 15-year anniversary of M. Night Shyamalan’s uniquely atmospheric thriller The Village. The Village was ultimately a refreshingly different, original movie that was released in a year where Hollywood’s main focus was (and arguably still is) on remakes and sequels. This being said Rotten Tomatoes indicates Critics a-like can agree that The Village was memorable but not impressive with a score of only 44% satisfaction. Although receiving mixed reviews, The Village still managed a respectable profit of $256,697,520 of an estimated $60,000,000 budget. 15 years since it’s debut we discuss whether or not The Village is worth a revisit or should be left behind.
The Village takes us to a remote and isolated Amish-style community, set sweetly in a clearing that is surrounded by a seemingly endless wood. The village folk take refuge in the seclusion of their community, keeping communication and interaction within their forested perimeter. Not a soul ventures near the woods in fear of ‘those we do no speak of’; large creatures who reside in the forest willing to attack anyone who leaves the confines of the village. After disaster falls upon the simple folk, panic ensues and the leaders overcome their irrational sensibilities, sending Ivy, a blind woman, into the forest in search of help.
The Village was seriously hit with a strange barrage of mixed reviews. Usually,a movie sways one way or the other, but The Village failed to sit either side of good or bad. The critics’ consensus was ridiculously mixed. I genuinely found that it was either loved or hated, rarely anything in between. On the one hand, Shyamalan was praised for his execution of suspense and creative manipulation towards a chilling atmosphere. On the other hand, the obnoxious finale and ‘twist’ was hardly worth the drawn-out wait. The overriding sense of expected resolve paved the way for a prolonged semblance of misdirection reaching an inevitable conclusion.
Following the immediate success of sci-fi horror Signs, M. Night Shyamalan’s next thriller flick was greatly anticipated. Unfortunately, The Village didn’t quite satisfy audiences’ insatiable desire for the intensely freaky, such as the atmosphere experienced whilst watching Signs. The Village is undeniably thrilling and eerily suspenseful in places, giving viewers anxiety-filled glimpses into a world of naïve coercion. This being so, the knowledge of a ‘twist’ almost distracts from the situation at hand as you try to figure out what it could be.
Granted, I didn’t predict the ending when I watched The Village but disappointingly it’s only because I was not expecting to be quite as disappointed. The final explanation for the creatures in the woods was as much of a cop-out as the cliché ending ‘it was all a dream’. The hooded creatures are revealed in a whodunit fashion, leaving viewers to feel a bit condescended to as they may expect this kind of trick in an episode of Scooby-Doo. Feeling robbed of a satisfying ending resulted it a mediocre audience reaction as The Village dastardly missed the mark for being revolutionary or surprising.
This being said The Village is redeemable, and its flaws could be easily forgiven thanks to the stellar quality of acting. Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Pheonix rule the screen as the wistful couple share an endearing romance guided by extraordinary circumstances. Joaquin Pheonix’s brooding dissatisfaction with life and entrapment is oddly appealing and worked to give The Village its claustrophobic atmosphere. Bryce Dallas Howard was elegantly talented when bringing a childishly admirable sense of innocence to her character as she literally fumbles to navigate her surroundings. Along with other notable names such as Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt, The Village can boast an accomplished cast that indeed does justice to the audience where the plot doesn’t.
Overall, The Village remains in viewers’ minds due to its originality and gumption. Personally, the film fell short at the last hurdle but I cannot deny that The Village is a lesson in atmosphere and tension. Even with its disappointing resolution, The Village raises some very pressing topics of discussion that still very much hold relevance today. With themes of terror, exclusion, and technology, The Village would certainly be worth another look as we enter the age of technology. Audiences rarely spend an hour away from their phones and with that in mind maybe it would be intriguing to see how the ideas explored in The Village could fit into our lives today.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.