Although M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller “The Village” is not his best, it is still an adequate film — providing thrills, chills and a sweeping story. The movie centers around an old settlement nestled in a forest clearing. According to village lore, the surrounding woods are filled with ancient creatures that devour any citizen that dares to leave the safety of the village and venture into the forbidden forest. After an accident in the settlement, however, a young girl must venture through the woods, driven by love, to save her husband-to-be.
Though the plot may be strained, the visual aspects of “The Village” showcase Shyamalan’s natural gift for capturing beauty onscreen. His mixing of color and light, especially in the evening scenes where the only source of illumination is a small lantern or torch, is majestic. The visual splendor of the film shines on this crisp and clear DVD. The picture leaps off your television screen; graphically, “The Village” excels.
In terms of storytelling, however, Shyamalan shows less flair than he does for camera work. At times his tale of love and courage can be plodding and boring. There is the occasional thrill, but they are broken up by long, stiff speeches from many of the characters. Often the movie seems to take itself too seriously, and sacrifices some of its charm and spookiness for long bouts of sociological drivel. In the end, these thinly veiled lessons harm the delivery of the now-standard twist. The once grand thrill is reduced to a mere parlor trick.
If taken as a showcase for what a talented young director can do visually, “The Village” presents itself well. Compared to his earlier films, this latest effort displays artistic growth behind the camera. However, on a plot level, “The Village” falls far behind even “Unbreakable”; this proves to be Shyamalan’s weakest script yet.
To add to the frustration and anguish watchers may feel, the DVD’s special features fail on their promise to shed light on the mystery surrounding “The Village.” While there are a few interesting tidbits, most of the features are disappointing. The additional scenes, for instance, were deleted for a reason, and watching these Shyamalan outtakes is underwhelming. One exciting little nugget on the DVD is the director’s trademark home video from his youth. Seeing a young director posing as Indiana Jones in his parents’ backyard is a hilarious addition and a welcome breath of self-effacing humor to the DVD.
Released alongside the Buena Vista summer spectacle was a feature-length documentary on all things Shyamalan, produced by the Sci-Fi channel. This same documentary has now been brought to DVD for a simultaneous release with “The Village.” The documentary is essentially a plug for the film. It contains false intrigues and mysticisms about the director, including a hilarious Ouija board scene. As the documentary progresses, it becomes clear that this is all part of master plan — to promote himself into stardom. The makers of the documentary at one point try to draw a comparison between the young boy in “The Sixth Sense” and Shyamalan himself. Utterly baffling.
While the special features aren’t completely disappointing, both movies are bland and mediocre. For a filmmaker who’s made a career based off paralyzing the audience with suspense, the special features are lukewarm at best. The documentary fails to reveal anything substantial about Shyamalan, except maybe his sense of humor and lust for personal mystique. “The Sixth Sense” and all of its unparalleled success seems to have burndened Shyamalan sadly, he seems to be suffering under the expectations. The same visuals that anchored us to the suburban gothic beauty of “The Sixth Sense” echo here, but perhaps Shyamalan has run out of plot tricks to pull of out his hat. With such a pedigree of suspense and the burden of expectations, “The Village” fails to live up to the three high-profile films preceding it.
Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Picture Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Special Features: 3 out of 5 stars