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The Village (DVD)

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Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2004 / Director: M. Night Shyamalan / Actors: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix ... / DVD released 31 January, 2005 at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainm / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    18 Reviews
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      12.04.2010 22:44
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      Another formulaic effort with the madatory silly twist at the end

      Put Simply, The Village is another boring and predictable M Night Shyamalan film that tries to pretend to be clever by throwing a big implausible twist in at the end. The plot concerns a group of 19th century Americans who, tired with the moral turpitude displayed by their countrymen, opt to live in isolation in seclusion in a small rural town community away from the increasingly changing and to their minds sinful and damaging modern world.

      Central to the story is a love story between Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays girl blind from birth, and the cast is genearlly pretty solid, with Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Brendan Greeson all putting in performances as the town's elders, who are very controlling over their community and warn of hideous beasts that supposedly lurk just out of sight in the shadows of the woods beyond the town.

      There are some good shots of the town lit up by flaming torches to ward off the unseen evil beasts, and there are some tense moments, such as when Howard's blind character is sent off alone to get medicine for the dying Phoenix because she alone will remain untainted by the modern world due to her lack of sight, and I'm sure there is some interesting social commentary lurking within the film, but it's so boring, bloated and pretentious (not to mentiong grindingly slow) that I struggled to pay much attention to be honest. The dialogue and characters' delivery is stilted and dull, like Pride and Prejudice as written by someone semi-literate, and M Night again falls back on regurgitating the directorial device of using red to indicate danger, even though he A) did this in Sixth Sense and B) Stole the idea from Spielberg in the first place.

      The film plods along to a wholly underwhelming and very implausable conclusion, and makes for frustrating and largely vacuous viewing experience. Not a tenth as clever or artful as it likes to think it is and not really worth bothering with, to be honest.

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        27.03.2010 11:55
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        Overall, a pretty good suspense movie

        The Village is billed as a horror movie that is directed by the same director that brought us the Sixth Sense and Signs. I have seen both those movies and enjoyed them so thought I should try this one to see what it is like so got it recently on DVD for less than £5.

        The focus for the story as the title suggests is on a Village where everyone who lives there seems to go about normally and lead simple lives. The only strange thing is the inhabitants of the village never stray from the confined boundaries and into the woods. It has been that way for many years since the Village was formed. According to rumours there are creatures living in the woods and as long as people don't venture past the strict boundaries into the woods then the creatures would leave them alone. There was some talk about the town that some of the inhabitants used to live in but to get to that town they would have to travel through the woods. The main character Lucius Hunt is upset about the way things are being run and wanted to travel through the woods to the old town.

        Gradually strange things start to happen in the village as dead animals are found that had been brutally skinned of their flesh. The Elders within the community claim that this was caused by a coyote. However, one night the rumoured creatures from the wood enter the town and leave red marks on the doors. It was like a mysterious warning.

        I wouldn't say this movie is particualary a horror movie as such, although there were one or two scary moments in it. The movie is full of suspense and did keep me on the edge of my seat. It is really more the feeling of unknown and what lurks outside the village to it plays on your mind really and inner fears. The Villagers have been brainwashed over the years almost to never venture outside the comfort of their lives.

        The expert way in which the movie is directed adds to the supsense too with the creepy lighting and music. I think this was done pretty well in my opinion.

        I would recommend trying this movie as it's not bad at all and will keep you interested throught the 108 minutes of it's length. If you liked the Sixth sense and these sorts of movies I think you will enjoy this too.

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        27.08.2009 12:54
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        Doubt it's worth the bother, and definitely not worth buying!

        It will be quite hard to summarise the plot to this film without giving away too much, but I hope this will at least give an idea of what the film is about and the basic story. Regretfully for me, I actually bought this film on DVD, and as you will see, it's not turned out to be such a good buy!

        The Story

        It is about a society that has broken away from the rest of the world and modern life. They have set up a village away from the towns, but it is near a forest where the people are forbidden to go as it is inhabited by 'those we do not speak of'. These creatures appear to have threatened the villagers in the past but it has become a common agreement between them that they do not venture into each others' territories. The creatures may also be attracted by the 'bad colour', which is red, and so this colour is never allowed to show in the village.

        One member of the town, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), however, has become curious that there may be benefits to leaving the village and venturing past the forest and into the town. He suggests that they may find better medicines than the treatments they use within the village, for example, to help Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), who has some sort of learning difficulties and can be quite excitable. However, when something terrible happens, it is up to Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), an admirer of Lucius, to take the bold step and journey out to the towns. She will have some trouble, however, persuading the elders, in particular her father, to allow her to go, and with the danger of the creatures, that appear to be becoming increasingly aggressive, crossing the boundaries at night to threaten the villagers, the possibility of an attack lingers.

        The story itself is somewhat interesting, but as I show below the way it was done was just weak and unconvincing. The parts of the film that are meant to be scary seem more like those parts of a film when you are just waiting for the action to get going. I found it hard to sit through the whole thing without getting fidgety and wandering about the house! On the upside I didn't feel like I needed to catch up if I missed a few seconds. Or should that also be on the downside?

        Film Qualities

        I think that 'horror' is not really the appropriate word to describe this type of film, because it implies that it will scare you, and I'll be surprised if it does. There are mild psychological effects of the soundtrack and the brief appearances of 'those we do not speak of', but there is nothing particularly disturbing and any effects are short-lived, leaving a sense of disappointment after the film.

        The opening music is eerie, filled with tension and makes you feel a little jumpy. Throughout, the tone of the music is low and quite solemn with lots of violin riffs to add to the mood. Generally the music fits well to the film and probably gives the best of the horror/suspense effect that the actual story lacks. It keeps your attention but does, however, raise your expectations quite a bit and the acting does not really live up to the standard in my opinion.

        The setting is an old-style village with mostly wooden constructed housing. Huge tables are set up where all the characters dine together, emphasising the close-knit nature of the community. The costumes have a historical style about them perhaps intended to be similar to the type of clothing worn by the early settlers in America, with all the women wearing traditional dresses. This is matched by the old-fashioned language used by the characters, which leads us to believe this is a period film. The costumes of 'those we do not speak of' are poorly made, do not look realistic from the start and are certainly not scary.

        The Acting

        Bryce Dallas Howard was the best performer for me in this film, portraying a naïve young girl, affectionate and kind to friends and family, blind but very independent. Adrien Brody was also good as someone mentally impaired, playing the role in an appropriate manner and well reflecting the emotional confusion of his character. Joaquin Phoenix for me was plain, he whispered too much and his character's personality was weak and did not really stand out. It's a shame as I felt a lot more could have been done with this role.

        While some of the characters seem genuinely afraid by 'those we do not speak of', it is hard as a view to really feel any empathy with them at all. The creatures do not really look scary, almost comical, and they move slow and clumsily. They appear more weird than dangerous, in fact, frankly they look more like drunks in Halloween party costumes - rubbish ones.

        Classification

        The film is rated 12, and to be honest I'm surprised it didn't make a PG as I have seen scarier PG films in the past, and certification generally appeared to be getting more liberal. There is a bit of violence towards animals (well we see the result of it rather than actual violence) and this could be upsetting for some viewers. Otherwise, there was no swearing, although a lot of old style weird language! There was also nothing sexual in this film so it would be alright for kids generally.

        Conclusion

        To be entirely honest I was quite disappointed with this film, perhaps mostly because it was categorised as a thriller/horror when it clearly was not. The element of mystery was the only thing that really kept me watching the film and the second time watching it was incredibly boring. The acting was not particularly memorable, although I quite liked Howard. The story had potential to be intriguing and memorable but sadly the film simply did not have that effect. For this reason I would not recommend buying it. Don't waste your money, though you might borrow it just to find out what it's all about, don't get your hopes up, it's nothing special. Probably for most people, it is the kind of thing only worth watching when you are that bored and there really is nothing else on telly (a bit unlikely these days).

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          08.08.2009 21:26

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          A great buy from £5.78 and a great thriller

          This thriller from the writer/director of The Sixth Sense is simply great- pulling typical strings to make you scared. Not gory, a little spooky and certainly strange, it is based in a secluded village dedicated to a 1600s way of living, America.
          When villagers attempt to prove theories of monsters in the woods wrong (that older members of the community make up to avoid youngsters escaping to the real world) scary events take off. However, its different- and better- than alot of scary films i've seen that leave you feeling queasy and uneasy by finishing with a happier ending.

          It's cast isn't anything jaw-dropping although, but not short of talent- newcomer, Bryce Dallas Howard and actors such as William Hurt and Adrien Brody make the film that little bit more suspensful. It's cover, music and DVD setting really set the scene too and continue a spooky, sinister theme in the certificate 12, 103 minute feature.

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          31.07.2009 18:02
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          Do your very best not to scream

          The Village

          Plot

          A tightly knit closed off village in the late nineteenth century are terrified by an oppressive evil which inhabits the woods surrounding them, none are brave enough to leave except for the brave Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) who wants to know what lies beyond the woods.

          The village seems to be almost like an Amish community where problems are peaceably solved by the village elders elders, headed by Edward (William Hurt) and Lucius' mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver).

          As a further strand of the story, Lucius is in love with Edward's blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) who also has a strange relationship with the disturbed Noah (Adrien Brody). The film follows Lucius on his journey for love and to discover the creatures that his whole village fear within the terrifying woods.

          Cast


          Bryce Dallas Howard ... Ivy Walker

          Joaquin Phoenix ... Lucius Hunt

          Adrien Brody ... Noah Percy

          William Hurt ... Edward Walker

          Sigourney Weaver ... Alice Hunt

          Brendan Gleeson ... August Nicholson
          Cherry Jones ... Mrs. Clack
          Celia Weston ... Vivian Percy
          John Christopher Jones ... Robert Percy
          Frank Collison ... Victor
          Jayne Atkinson ... Tabitha Walker

          Judy Greer ... Kitty Walker
          Fran Kranz ... Christop Crane
          Michael Pitt ... Finton Coin
          Jesse Eisenberg ... Jamison

          My View:

          I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with this film, it feels to me like the director M.Night Shylaman seems intent on creating twisting endings in each of his films, the idea of this film is in essence very interesting, the characters do slowly open up and we develop an interest in why they are so enclosed and also what frightens them so about the woods and beyond.

          Phoenix is good as the hero Lucius, he plays his character the right side of hammy and shows a good grasp of the script and the storyline in gently pacing how much of his character he releases at any one time. Howard is very good as the feisty blind girl, she is probably the star of this film and her character has an integral part to play in things. I found William Hurt and Adrien Brody disappointing in their roles, Hurt tries to hard for gravitas with long pauses whilst Brody having a smaller part overplays his mentally disturbed character and chomps the scenery when he is in it.

          I did find the fact the elders had an agreement with the creatures not to cross their boundaries an interesting concept, I won't spoil the ending as there is obviously a twist but when you hear that in a film by this director it makes you wonder if the creatures are real, if they are human or if the elders have created this boundary as a limit to stop their loved ones ever leaving, it could be none or all of these things, but this I found interesting.

          I found the first half of the film built a story which the second half couldn't sustain, this film is restrained and thoughtful in its outlook, but I felt the second half took this away becoming too overt and using ideas which were half baked to finish the story.

          I like the fact the directors films rely more on suspense and thought than special effects, I do think it is a good looking film with excellent cinematography and the directors traditional skills in setting up a situation with tension and fear rather than a stupid crash or amazing cgi effect, the film benefits from the strong colour coding and a well designed and thought out village set.

          The acting is a plus and the ideas are good, unfortunately I just felt that the director lost his nerve and instead of making a really interesting sleeper hit, slow paced and with a thoughtful edge, he lost me with the final act which left me feeling a bit cheated, probably as much because the Director has a reputation for clever endings and also because the film does well in building a sense of tension and foreboding in its first half, which it fails to fulfil.

          The DVD is available for £5.98 at Amazon and includes a directors commentary.

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          25.02.2009 20:58
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          A chilling tale that is closer to our lives then you think!

          I enjoyed this film very much. It sparked a very lengthy debate between me and my boyfriend!

          In theory, I would consider this a chiller and not a horror film, an aspect of the film which have confused people when it came to pigeon holing . At rating 12, it is not going to be gory or shocking, so if your looking for an instant blood and guts type of entertainment then you may as well stop reading now. It is based on a very simple and relative horror to our modern age.

          As the title suggests, the film is indeed set in a village, circa 1897. Nice and simple. I do not want to give much away, as I feel that most people reveal absurd amounts in reviews. The basic premise of the story, is based on the ins and outs of a village situated nearby the monster riddled 'Covington Woods' or as the villagers call the monsters: 'Those we do not Speak Of'. Life is free and idyllic in this village, there is communication and harmony on the whole between people, save the drills that they have to adhere to and the stories that they hear about these mysterious beings. A neat story unfolds, about a man called Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Pheonix) who asks 'the elders' (or the leaders) of the village to leave for 'the towns' in search of medicines. Death rates are soaring, especially amongst children. This request is bared, even Lucius' mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver) is nervous about the idea.

          In any case, parallel to this side of the story, a very deep and dependent love develops between himself and Ivy (Bryces Dallas Howard), a young, tom boy-ish blind girl in the village. They declare their intentions of marriage but this is beset by a tricky turn. A close friend to Ivy and also to Lucius, Noah (Adrien Brody) with very ardent behavioural problems, stabs Lucius.

          This event spurns Ivy into action and requests to go in search of medicines both in respect of Lucuis' previous requests to the elders and to save him. And thats all I am going to say for now.

          I really liked this film and I really liked the twists. The film opens with a very claustrophobic and tight shot, zooming in through and over the shoulders of the witnesses to a funeral, with a weeping man over a child sized coffin . You are aware that it is in the countryside, in deep greenery but the viewer is instantly cut off from the openness and forced to be voyeur over this sad scene, suggesting already, not only tragedy but ignorance and secrecy. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the fear in which the villagers exist go beyond monsters.

          M. Night Shayamalan the director, explores the idea of fear very vividly. The cinematography is lush but without too much Hollywood glare (always a plus for me J ) and is certainly steadier than 'The Sixth Sense'. We often experience the film from the view point of the blind girl, this is regularly highlighted and depicted by sharpening certain sounds in different situations; the flapping of a flag in the wind is often lifted to increase the jarring tensions of certain scenes. Most chillers and horror inclined films are heavily reliant on sudden changes in sound to make the viewer jump. Night manages this very successfully but draws this intention of suspense even tighter together by placing both people, objects and situations into a curiously symbolic patterns whilst handling brave cutting and splicing of scenes, to again, really corner the sense of an unseen secret.

          Please, please watch this film, it is certainly food for thought.

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            29.01.2009 22:52
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            deffinitely recommend

            I love this film; it's great and I really recommend it. It a mild horror film (on a par with Sixth Sense by the same director). This film creates an amazing atmosphere, I think that this is through a combination of colour scheme, lever writing and really believable screneplay. I would say that it is a film that is really easy to follow. It isn't a 'thinking' film and doesn't need much concentration but listening to what is said gives everything more meaning later on and helps you to understand certain characters decisions later on aswell. This film has a great twist at the end, which I wont give away, but it does make you think, could that really happen? If your watchiing this with younger children then you should know that there is the occasional gory bit (very occasional) but you are warned by the music and backgroung sounds (ie. the sound of flies). Overall, an amazing film.

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              21.11.2008 02:17
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              A good wee friday nite watch!

              A brilliant film from director M Night Shymalan

              A kind of strange, fairytale?! A love story?! A horror?! I dont know, its a bit of everything really.

              A story about a village who live as if time has stopped but are haunted by mystical creatures who live in the woods surrounding there village. These mystical creatures are attracted by 'the bad colour' (or red to us ha ha) and begin to harass villagers. Its difficult to tlk to much about the story as it has a few twists and turns which i dont want to spoil for the potential viewer reading this!!

              But fab news....its only £3 in tesco just now, I watched it a million times on the tv and on rented dvds but was in Tesco the other nite and there it was so i bought it with the change in my purse!

              Well worth a watch, not sure if its everyones cup of tea but it is a really good wee film! And girls how can u resist watching Joaquin Phoenix....beautiful beautiful man that he is!!!

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                24.12.2007 08:17
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                IMHO, this film is a must-see

                The Village

                I just love M. Night Shyamalan. He shoots wonderful movies, they're like wise fairy-tales. Not just fiction stories, but stories that make you take thought. The Village is one of the kind too.

                I'll try to avoid spoilers and write about the plot very briefly. There's a community of people living isolated in the forest. They're just normal people, they have a church, a school, and they lead a nice and quiet life. But from time to time something comes from the forest... To bring fear and uncetrainity...

                The film is shot like a thriller - quick camera moves, all these sounds and sulky music etc. There was a couple of moments which made me jump up in my sofa. Remember Signs? Shyamalan never shows you what the monster is, and this is the most frightening thing.

                The plot pay-off is unexpected and shocking. This is another thing I love about the movies. Remember 6th Sense, Apocalypsis, Usual Suspects etc... I won't tell you how the film ends - watch it yourself and you'll see. I loved it.

                Shyamalan shot wonderful actors in this movie. The main character is played by Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Signs). The main female character is played by Shyamalan's favourite actress Bryce Dallas Howard (Manderlay, Lady in the Water). Also starring: Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Michael Pitt.

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                  15.04.2007 19:14
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                  M Night Shyamalan film.

                  When The Village plopped on my mat from my DVD rental service I couldn't remember what it was about and why I had added it. It is written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who is most famous for Sixth Sense, which I imagine is what intrigued me, although his subsequent films such as Unbreakable and Signs have not had the same commercial or critical success, nor did I enjoy them as much.

                  The film is set in an isolated, rural Pennsylvanian village in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The village is surrounded by a forest which contains strange, mythical type creatures that are not always friendly. Because of them the villagers do not venture into the forest and therefore do not leave the village. When a child dies, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) offers to travel through the forest to get medicine from nearby towns, but the village elders refuse to allow him to go. We also get an idea of village life, and how inward looking and superstitious it is. There is often a night lookout watching for the unnamed creatures (referred to only as Those Of Whom We Do Not Speak) from the forest and red is considered a bad colour that is banned in the village as it represents the creatures. This is really a character led drama and love story rather than a horror film, though. The film has an impressive ensemble cast headed by Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of director Ron Howard) as blind Ivy Walker who falls in love with Lucius. However, Noah (Adrien Brody), a mentally handicapped man in the village also loves Ivy and wants to keep her for himself and this is where tragedy strikes meaning that it is Ivy who has to go through the forest to get medicine from a nearby town.

                  You can't fault the acting in this, Howard is superb, and Phoenix pulls off the quiet, brooding Lucius with ease. Brody seems to enjoy his role as the excitable Noah and they are ably supported by the elders that include William Hurt as Ivy's father, Edward and Sigourney Weaver as Lucius' mother, Alice. The quality of the acting cannot be faulted, and the full subtleties that I believe Shyamalan wanted to depict in the village dynamics are all there. You do question the villagers' obsession with the forest and this does lead into the inevitable plot twist. Most of it I saw coming but not all of it or how it was executed so don't assume it is in the bag when you start watching (mind you I am usually the last person to see a twist in anything, so perhaps I am not the best person to judge!). For all its faults, the film did stay in my mind the whole of the next day, and I quite liked the premise but think it could have been explored differently and better. This is the most frustrating thing about the film; it has the potential to be a much better, more challenging and thought-provoking film with the same plot premise just executed differently. Probably with a better writer and director too!

                  The music is good but nothing special, certainly not memorable. There are no special effects, and the scenery and costumes appear to be authentic of a simple rural life of that period. The film is beautifully shot in winter time, so although picturesque the village can also look grey and unappealing.

                  There are a number of extras on the DVD, usually with an introduction by Shyamalan. There are a series of 'Deconstructing The Village' featurettes (essentially Making Of… films) that cover shooting, casting and boot camp amongst other topics. In total there are six of these totaling approximately 25 minutes. The best one in my opinion is Boot Camp which shows how the cast spent some time at a Living Museum learning woodwork, cheese making and other nineteenth century rural practices.

                  There are five deleted scenes which don't add anything to the movie, so you can see why they were deleted.

                  There are extracts from Bryce Dallas Howard's diary, written before, during and after filming, which she reads herself over music and soft focus images, which lasts 5 minutes and this is plenty long enough.

                  Apparently it is traditional for Shyamalan to include one of his home movies form his teens on his DVDs, thus we see one that he wrote and starred in himself with a bit of help from the dog. There is also a photo gallery.

                  This film has a twelve certificate, which I think is fair. There is no bad language (speech is rather old fashioned such as in an Austen or Dickens novel), and limited violence, although there are a few scenes that can be perceived as slightly scary for youngsters. It is not the best thriller you will watch or the best love story but will not be the worst film you've ever seen and can while away a couple of hours. I hestitate as to whether I would recommend this film or not, but in the end I thing 'yes', enjoy the performances and then think of how you could do a better job without the silly creatures.

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                    08.04.2007 14:24
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                    crap

                    The Village is a film about a village, an isolated village, like the Amish communities the people living in the village don't want outside contact. children born in the village have never ventured past the village gates. The village is surrounded by a jungle. The elders say that creatures live around the village. These creatures don't want humans to intrude on them so the villagers can never leave.

                    The Village is a weak film in every sense. The plot is full of holes. The jungle is not like the Amazon, there are trees but not like in a proper jungle. It is a woodland area, not very scary for the residents.

                    A promising story fails to have any impact. Aim might be to manipulative the person watching it. Lack of tmosphere, action, gore and guts spilled in horror films is missing here. I am very surprised that this is a horror film. It is 12A, aimed at teenagers.

                    BBC review about The Village is very positive. "It is also the most exciting, engrossing and thought-provoking mainstream movie of 2004.". Yeah right! I must be from a different planet.

                    I think this film misses the point. More questions are raised then answered. What kind of film is this. Hitchcock style no way.

                    I don't recommend The Village. I wasted good money on this rubbish.

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                      14.03.2007 14:48
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                      dreadful film

                      M Night Shyamalan directed horror film The Sixth Sense which was a huge film. Well written, directed and acted by Bruce Willis and creepy Haley Joel Osment as the troubled Cole Sear.

                      Shyaymalan's next films were failures really. Signs is OK but not something you want to rent out.

                      The Village continues Shyaymalan's failures. In sales this film made about $111 million. Budget was $67 million. $50 million were made in opening weekend after which ticket sales declined to less than 33% of first week.

                      When you watch the film you understand why the film is a failure.

                      The Village is a complete failure in every sense. Set in end of 19th century rural America. The people in the film live in village that is cut off from the rest of the world. Elders tell their juniors that terrible monsters live in the woods which surround the village and there is no way they can contact world outside.

                      Monster myth is destroyed by the events in the film. Everything looks so childish and the film plot is very difficult to believe. This is why the film is complete failure. If you are not going to believe what the actor is saying than there is no point in watching the film.

                      I don't actually want to recommend this film because by recommending it I am lying. I didn't like this film at all. I watched all of it because I wanted to write a review on it.

                      Overall this film is a complete failure and I am very surprised that Shyamalan continues to make big budget films. His next movie Lady in the Water just about got the budget back.

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                        13.01.2007 22:29
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                        bad bad film

                        The village is a terrible film. Shyamalan was probably sleeping when he conceived the idea. The plot is full of holes.

                        Ivy is blind and has never been out of her village. She is sent to find medicine.

                        The Village is a 2004 film. It is set in the 19th century in a secluded village. The natives of this village never leave because they are surrounded by a forest and there are dangerous creatures living in the forest.

                        When a young men is attacked by his friend, he is left with severe injuries. It is up to his girlfriend to make contact with world outside to get medicine.

                        The village is not a horror film. It was advertised that way when it came out. The story is not very interesting.

                        Film direction is poor and the actors don't have challenging roles to play.

                        This film looks like a bad children drama made for BBC with American accents.

                        I totally disliked this picture. The story is unconvincing. Script is poor and the setting is rather pathetic.

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                          12.01.2007 14:43
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                          There's a twist in this tale

                          It is the late nineteenth century and in a quiet, secluded valley there exists a village. The villagers are simple folk, living entirely off the land and enjoying the simplicity of their subsistent lifestyle. Watching over the welfare of the villagers is a small group of mature residents known as The Elders, whose wisdom is unquestioned and whose instructions are followed without question. But The Village is not quite the haven that it at first purports to be.

                          The inhabitants live in fear of a mysterious race of creatures that inhabit the thick woods on the outskirts of the village. Fear of the creatures is great and as such, the villagers maintain a constant vigil against the terrifying beasts. The young men take turns at night duty, atop huge wooden lookout posts and a clear perimeter is maintained around the village. The villagers are forbidden from ever entering the woods and dress themselves in yellow cloaks to appease the creatures when leaving sacrificial offerings. The colour red is believed to anger the beasts and any red flowers or fruits are quickly buried before they can attract the attention of “Those We Do Not Speak Of”. It seems rather primitive, but there is a balance of sorts and the villagers are generally content with their lives.

                          After the death of one the villagers’ children, Lucius Hunt (the son of one of the elders) requests permission to leave the village and make his way to one of the infamous towns, in order to obtain medicines and drugs that are otherwise missing from the village. His request is denied but his curiosity still gets the better of him and one morning he ventures into the forbidden woods, only to be spotted by one of the feared creatures. His actions do not go without consequence. One of the creatures is later sighted at a lookout post and is seen walking through the village as the terrified inhabitants scramble for cover. Red marks appear on the villagers’ doors and livestock is found skinned and discarded in the fields. A corner has been turned and for the inhabitants of The Village, things may never be the same again. But were they ever quite what they believed them to be?

                          Can you admire a film and yet still dislike it? I think you probably can and where The Village is concerned, this would most definitely be the case for me. Whilst I can (and will) find much to like about this film, it is ultimately a victim of phenomenon – a phenomenon whipped up by hype and Hollywood machination that was forever doomed to be a failure.

                          Listed under at least four different genres on the Internet Movie Database, The Village is indeed many things. It is a love story – a classic tale of adventure and misfortune brought about by the mutual adoration felt by two people. It is a mystery, woven around secrets, lies and a deception that runs far deeper than you could probably imagine. It is a chiller, peppered with shocks designed to make you jump and attempts to unnerve and unsettle. But for me above all else, it is a drama, a morality play – an investigation into the power of belief. Is truth based on belief or fact?

                          As a love story, The Village is very effective. It demonstrates sensitivity and a depth of feeling that is sincere and engaging. Lucius Hunt and Ivy Walker are as likely to be together as they are unlikely. He is quiet, reserved and shy, yet demonstrates a bravery and spirit of conviction that outshines his peers. She is loud, outspoken and jolly, yet her blindness makes her vulnerable and perceptive in equal doses. Their relationship is not based on passion or excitement. It is based on sincerity and affection and there are many touching moments in the film. The film’s period setting also adds to the effectiveness of the romantic setting – the simplistic nature of the villagers serves only to make their dialogue and actions all the more important. Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely perfect as the meek, yet kind-hearted Lucius and Bryce Dallas Howard is truly inspired as the young blind girl. You couldn’t really ask for more convincing performances.

                          As a mystery, it is also quite effective, if only because the mysterious village and its rather odd inhabitants soon intrigue you. The story creeps along and weaves its way in and out of the characters like a tendril of fog and leads you first one way and then another. The film is seldom very exciting, comforting itself instead with short bursts of action followed by characterisation and intrigue. It is, ultimately, quite unsettling. It isn’t really a horror film, containing no gore or horror, as we would expect and only providing shocks for those who are easily shocked. This is perhaps unusual because this is the main direction in which the marketing machine was pointed. But rest assured that The Village is not a horror film – the 12A certificate should be enough to convince you of this.

                          It is in the fourth arena that The Village confounds and astounds in seemingly limitless quantities and for me, it is here that it starts to fall apart. Following the success of The Sixth Sense and its killer twist, Shyamalan was catapulted into the mainstream. Cited as a twenty-first century answer to Alfred Hitchcock, his following films Unbreakable and Signs were popular, but didn’t really have that jolting twist at the end that made everyone in the audience gasp. The Sixth Sense was clever and inspired. Backwards or forwards, it made sense and satisfied us that it was actually a very clever tale. The Village, however, is not. Shyamalan has simply tried too hard to recreate that climactic shock and hasn’t really worked with the rest of the film. The explanation does stand up at least if you suspend some disbelief and throw yourself into the spirit of things, but it just feels out of sorts with the rest of the film. It is very disappointing. It feels contrived, almost as though he was making a masterpiece and then grew very tired of it all. Indeed, in his quest to maintain his status as “King of the Cinematic Twist”, I almost felt that Shyamalan designed the whole story around a very simple premise and worked backwards from the end. It felt as though he ended up stitching bits on here and there and filling in details related to what might become obvious questions.

                          This is a huge shame, because conceptually, I actually bought into the whole idea and decided that I could rationalise what was happening. Much of the story is based on real life in that you can easily find people that live their lives in the same way as the inhabitants of The Village. Isolation, subsistence and superstition are certainly not rare. The real shame was that a fundamentally interesting premise was employed in the way that it was. There is nothing worse than being cheated. Your feelings of satisfaction, triumph and contentment are immediately unsettled by the revelation that someone is not who or what they purport to be. This was the effect that The Village had on me. As I left the cinema, I felt as though I had been manipulated into watching something, indeed BELIEVING in something that really wasn’t what it appeared to be. Arguably, of course, it could be said that Shyamalan should be credited for being able to do this, but he didn’t achieve this on his own. He was aided by clever marketing, well-placed trailers, advertisements and a raft of Hollywood positioning that led us all to an inevitable place. I can admire the skills of the writer, but ultimately, I’d also have to condemn him for selling his soul in pursuit of his own reputation in such a way.

                          Ultimately, it is on this basis that I admire and dislike this film in equal doses. It has to be said that it certainly stimulates debate (always a sign of a good film) but it will always be true for me that The Village is a Jack of all trades and master of none. This is an exercise in how to make three films simultaneously and a demonstration of how not to stitch them together. Strangely, however, I still feel compelled to recommend the film. It is certainly well made and is likely to hold your interest. Inadvertently, I have probably only added to the “What is the twist?” intrigue that led me to watch it in the first place.

                          Who knows? Perhaps Shyamalan’s greatest twist will come when there really is no twist at all?

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                            21.06.2006 10:51
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                            Starts well, fizzles out

                            Introduction
                            Despite some rather dodgy reviews, I always liked the sound of the concept behind the village and so was delighted to get my hands on a copy and settled down expecting to watch a pleasantly creepy thriller. Unfortunately, not even the quality of the actors or the beautiful filming could make this film anything other than average. After a promising start, it just fizzled out.

                            The plot
                            The villagers of a place in the middle of the woods have made a pact with the beings inhabiting the wood that they will not break the boundaries of the village if the beings do not break the boundary of the woods. The children of the village are kept largely in the dark, yet know that escaping could mean death. Then Ivy Walker, who is blind, falls in love with Lucius Hunt, who harbours a strong desire to break out of the wall that surrounds him and find medicine for the various ailments that have been killing off the villagers.

                            After a brief trip into the woods one day, mutilated animal corpses start appearing in the village and a strange being dressed in red is seen slinking around. Then Lucius is attacked by another villager, jealous of Ivy’s love for him, and is left for dead. The only way to save his life is to get medication from the nearest town. Will anyone dare to go and if so, will they return in one piece?

                            The characters/actors
                            Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Ivy Walker, was virtually unknown before this movie. I was very impressed by her acting skills, she was very natural as an innocent young girl scared to death by ‘those we do not speak of’. Apparently this role was originally to have been played by Kirstin Dunst, but she pulled out at the last minute to play the lead role in Elizabethtown. Personally, I think this may have been a good choice – I cannot imagine Kirstin playing the same innocent young girl that Howard did.

                            Having recently seen Joaquin Pheonix for the first time in Walk the Line, I was looking forward to his performance as Lucius Hunt. Unfortunately, for no fault of his own, his role in the film just doesn’t develop to any great extent and I was left feeling rather disappointed. His character was a quiet unassuming man who keeps himself to himself, so even for the brief time that he was in front of the camera, it was hard to feel any affinity with him.

                            William Hurt as Ivy’s father did a reasonable job of his character, although like Sigourney Weaver, who played Lucius’ mother, Alice, there seemed little point to the characters – again, they just did not seem to develop well. Even when we find out the secrets that they have been hiding for years, I found myself just not that interested. This is nothing to do with their acting skills; it is simply that the plot was badly written.

                            Adrien Brody as Noah, Ivy’s friend, gave a good performance as a mentally handicapped young man. He is not an actor I know much about, but he played the role realistically and this is not an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, and this is not his fault, I didn’t like the way that the character played out – it was just a little too obvious and was a waste of this man’s talent.

                            Technical bits

                            Classification: 12

                            Running time: 108 minutes

                            The director
                            M Night Shyamalan was born in India, but was raised in Pennsylvania and despite being just 35, already has a good track record behind him in the film industry, with such films as Signs, Wide Awake and The Sixth Sense. Having thoroughly enjoyed The Sixth Sense in particular, I would not write this director off, although The Village is a big let-down for him in my eyes.

                            Conclusion
                            This film was beautifully filmed and had a bevy of highly talented actors, yet this was not enough to save it from being anything but a mediocre film. I was captivated by the first half an hour of the film, because of the creepy atmosphere and the promise of more to come, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen. By the last half hour of the film, I could barely bring myself to watch it and felt very little sympathy for any of the characters. I can’t help but feel Shyamalan badly let himself down here. The concept was great – it reminded me a bit of that X Files episode when Scully and Mulder become involved with an Amish village – but without a good plot and strong characterisation, it just did not work.

                            The worst part of the film for me were the flashes of the strange being that the villagers ‘do not speak of’. This was so obviously a man dressed up that it was just laughable and reminded me strongly of Harry Potter and ‘he who must not be named’. I’m not sure quite what the intention was here; whatever it was, it didn’t work for me!

                            On the other hand, some of the other special affects, particularly in the wood when one of the villagers tries to get medication for Lucius, was not bad. It was simply done with leaves whirling around everywhere, but it scared me anyway.

                            I shall watch out for Bryce Dallas Howard in the future, Adrien Brody and Joaquin Pheonix too. The last two characters did not develop well, but they did the best with the material they had.

                            I can’t recommend this film. I’m giving it three stars for the quality of the acting and filming, but there are so many much better films out there that I would only recommend you watch this if desperate.

                            I watched the film only, but the DVD is available from play.com for £6.99.

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                          • Product Details

                            Even when his trademark twist-ending formula wears worrisomely thin as it does in The Village, M. Night Shyamalan is a true showman who knows how to serve up a spookfest. He's derailed this time by a howler of a "surprise" lifted almost directly from "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," an episode of The Twilight Zone starring Cliff Robertson that originally aired in 1961. Even if you're unfamiliar with that Rod Serling scenario, you'll have a good chance of guessing the surprise, which ranks well below The Sixth Sense and Signs on Shyamalan's shock-o-meter. That leaves you to appreciate Shyamalan's proven strengths, including a sharp eye for fear-laden compositions, a general sense of unease, delicate handling of fine actors (alas, most of them wasted here, save for Bryce Dallas Howard in a promising debut), and the cautious concealment of his ruse, which in this case involves a 19th-century village that maintains an anxious truce with dreadful creatures that live in the forbidden woods nearby. Will any of this take anyone by genuine surprise? That seems unlikely, since Emperor Shyamalan has clearly lost his clothes in The Village, but it's nice to have him around to scare us, even if he doesn't always succeed. --Jeff Shannon