The Village (2004)

The village of Covington appears to be idyllic. However, there are a few problems - namely, "Those Who We Do No Speak Of", strange creatures that prowl the said wolves. Also the village has medical and technological infrastructure on par with the mid-19th century, leading to some birth defects and early childhood deaths. As we are first introduced to this community it is at the funeral for the son of August Nicholson (Brendan Gleeson), one of the town's elders.

Due to this situation and his concern for the mentally handicapped Noah (Adrien Brody), blacksmith Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) makes an appeal to the elders, led by Edward Walker (William Hurt), to let him cross through the woods and visit "The Towns" for medicine. This is despite concerns that the creatures in the woods have been crossing the boundary into the village and killing livestock, despite a long-standing truce between the settlers and the creatures to leave each other alone as long as the separate territories are respected. Not wanting to risk enraging the creatures, Lucius's request is denied.

Despite being considered an outsider by many in the village, Lucius is approached by Walker's older daughter Kitty (Judy Greer), but he rejects her, preferring instead her younger sister Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who became blind due to a childhood illness but can still see people's "colors." After Kitty gives up on Lucius and marries, it leaves Ivy and Lucius free to marry as well. Despite being reticent in his approaches at the beginning, he makes his intentions clear after helping protect Ivy from the creatures when, as a warning, they enter the village and leave marks on the doors of the houses.

However, Lucius isn't the only one who loves Ivy. She has often protected Noah, and he has grown rather fond of her and does not wish to lose her. Jealous and scared, he stabs Lucius repeatedly, leaving him lingering near death with an infection. Fearing that he will die without intervention, Walker and Lucius's mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver) agree, over the objections of other elders, to allow Ivy to go to the towns for medicine. This leads to a revelation about the creatures who live in the woods and the nature of Covington itself.

Now, if somehow you haven't seen this or don't know what is obviously coming up, don't read any further.

Although it did well financially, The Village was the first of M. Night Shyamalan's movies to receive heavy criticism. It didn't help that his three previous movies contained Twilight Zone-style twists, and so people went into this movie, ignoring everything else that was happening, waiting for the twist. Truth is, it isn't a big revelation. It's rather in your face from the beginning.

Despite supposedly being a 19th century village, much of the clothes (especially worn by the men), though of 19th century style fabrics, are of 20th century cuts. Men and women are equal in decisions, even though types of labor are divided. This isn't the first story of it's type, either, that has a mythology put together by the ruling class to hide some secret from everyone else. Yes, that's right - the creatures are suits created by the elders, based on Native American rumors of creatures that used to live in the woods.

The truth turns out to be that a number of well-to-do people, tired of urban blight and violence, left Philadelphia sometime in the 1980s after a number of their loved ones died and founded Covington as a secret, idyllic oasis. The creature story was meant to keep their children from leaving and being corrupted by modern society. It is located in a fenced-off animal sanctuary financed with Walker's inheritance.

Happily, most of this a viewer can figure out rather quickly. My only questions were rather we were looking at a group of people living outside of modern society or in a post-apocalyptic society, since their revelations of violence in the towns often appears rather hyperbolic. Where the movie works is in performances from all the actors present and a constant tense atmosphere throughout. Shyamalan has made a number of mediocre to bad movies since, but when he is at his best it is obvious that it is unfair to lump him in with such hacks as Uwe Bohl or Paul Anderson like many people do nowadays (especially after The Last Airbender).

And, yes, there are many holes that can be poked in such a secluded society. There are enough families to prevent inbreeding (or at least too close of breeding), but the lack of medical care is a big problem. A bigger problem, which wouldn't have been one in 2004, is the advent of a little device called Google Earth. They may have been able to hide out for 20-some years, but at this point some worker for the sanctuary would probably start wondering what the hell a 19th century village is doing in the middle of it. Their secret wouldn't stay so for long, and I'm sure there are a few government agencies that would have a few questions for Walker.

Regardless, this is still a great movie, on par with The Sixth Sense and much, much better than the hokey Signs. It is also the one most likely to at some ponit become a cult favorite, and that is why I am including it here.

The Village (2004)
Duration: 108 minutes
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

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