Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Written by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Christopher Tellefsen|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$256.7 million|
The Village is a 2004 American period horror film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It stars Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Brendan Gleeson. The film is about a village whose population lives in fear of creatures inhabiting the woods beyond it, referred to as "Those We Don't Speak Of". Like other films written and directed by Shyamalan from the same time period, The Village has a twist ending.
The film received mixed reviews, with critics especially divided about the plausibility and payoff of the ending. The film gave composer James Newton Howard his fourth Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.
Residents of the small, isolated, 19th-century Pennsylvania village of Covington live in fear of nameless humanoid creatures in the surrounding woods. They have constructed a large barrier of oil lanterns and watch towers that are constantly staffed. After the funeral of a child, the village elders deny Lucius Hunt's request for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from neighboring towns. Later, his mother Alice scolds him for wanting to visit the neighboring towns, which the villagers describe as wicked. The Elders also appear to have secrets, keeping physical mementos hidden in black boxes, supposedly reminders of the evil and tragedy in the towns they left behind.
After Lucius makes an unsanctioned venture into the woods, the creatures leave warnings in the form of splashes of red paint on all the villagers' doors.
Ivy Elizabeth Walker, the blind daughter of Chief Elder Edward Walker, informs Lucius that she has strong feelings for him and he returns her affections. They arrange to be married, but Noah Percy, a young man with an apparent developmental disability, stabs Lucius with a knife, because he is in love with Ivy himself. Noah is locked in a room while a decision awaits regarding his fate.
Edward goes against the wishes of the other Elders, agreeing to let Ivy pass through the forest and seek medicine for Lucius. Before she leaves, Edward explains that the creatures inhabiting the woods are actually members of their own community wearing costumes and have continued the legend of monsters in an effort to frighten and deter others from attempting to leave. Ivy and two young men are sent into the forest, but they abandon Ivy almost immediately, fearful of the creatures, rationalizing they will spare Ivy out of pity. While traveling through the forest, one of the creatures suddenly attacks Ivy. She tricks it into falling into a deep hole to its death. The creature is actually Noah wearing one of the costumes, which he discovered under the floorboards of the room where he had been confined after stabbing Lucius.
Ivy eventually finds her way to the far edge of the woods, where she encounters a high, ivy-covered wall. After she climbs over the wall, a young park ranger named Kevin spots Ivy and is shocked to hear that she has come out of the woods. The woods are actually the Walker Wildlife Preserve, named for Ivy's family, as it is the modern era instead of the 19th century as the villagers believe. Ivy gives Kevin a list of medicines that she must acquire, also giving him a golden pocket watch as payment.
During this time, it is revealed that the village was founded in the late 1970s. Edward Walker, then a professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic, all suffering the crime-related death of loved ones. He asked them to join in creating a place where they would sustain themselves and be protected from any aspect of the outside world. They built Covington in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward's family fortune. The head park ranger tells Kevin that the Walker Estate pays the government to keep the entire preserve a no-fly zone, while also funding the ranger corps who ensure no outside force disrupts the preserve. Kevin discreetly retrieves the requested medicine from his ranger station and Ivy returns to the village with the supplies, left unaware of the truth of the situation.
During her absence, the Elders secretly open their black boxes, each containing mementos from their lives in the outside world, including items related to their past traumas. The Elders gather around Lucius's bed when they hear that Ivy has returned and that she killed one of the monsters. Edward points out to Noah's grieving mother that his death will allow them to continue deceiving the rest of the villagers that there are creatures in the woods, and all the Elders vote to continue living in the village. Ivy comes in and tells Lucius that she has returned.
The film was originally titled The Woods, but the name was changed because a film in production by director Lucky McKee, The Woods (2006), already had that title. Like other Shyamalan productions, this film had high levels of secrecy surrounding it, to protect the expected twist ending that was a known Shyamalan trademark. Despite that, the script was stolen over a year before the film was released, prompting many "pre-reviews" of the film on several Internet film sites and much fan speculation about plot details. The village seen in the film was built in its entirety in one field outside Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. An adjacent field contained an on-location temporary sound stage. Production on the film started in October 2003, with delays because some scenes needing fall foliage could not be shot because of a late fall season. Principal photography was wrapped up in mid-December of that year. In April and May 2004, several of the lead actors were called back to the set. Reports noted that this seemed to have something to do with a change to the film's ending, and, in fact, the film's final ending differs from the ending in a stolen version of the script that surfaced a year earlier; in the original version, the film ends after Ivy climbs over the wall and it is revealed to the audience that the film takes place in the present day.
|Film score by|
|Released||July 27, 2004|
|Producer||James Newton Howard|
|James Newton Howard chronology|
The film grossed $114 million in the U.S., and $142 million in international markets. Its worldwide box office totalled $256 million, the tenth highest grossing PG-13 movie of 2004.
On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator website, the film has an approval rating of 44% based on 216 reviews, with an average rating of 5.39/10. The site's critics' consensus reads, "The Village is appropriately creepy, but Shyamalan's signature twist ending disappoints." At Metacritic, the film holds a score of 44 out of 100, based on 40 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film one star and wrote: "The Village is a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn ... To call the ending an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It was all a dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore." The film is listed on Ebert's "Most Hated" list. There were also comments that the film, while raising questions about conformity in a time of "evil," did little to "confront" those themes.Slate's Michael Agger commented that Shyamalan was continuing in a pattern of making "sealed-off movies that [fall] apart when exposed to outside logic."
The movie had a number of admirers. Critic Jeffrey Westhoff commented that though the film had its shortcomings, these did not necessarily render it a bad movie, and that "Shyamalan's orchestration of mood and terror is as adroit as ever". Philip Horne of The Daily Telegraph in a later review noted "this exquisitely crafted allegory of American soul-searching seems to have been widely misunderstood".
The film has attracted retrospective reviews. Emily Todd VanDerWerff of Vox said, "[The film] may be [Shyamalan's] best film, and one of the most interesting looks at the American film industry's early attempts to incorporate the Iraq War into fictional contexts. It's been unjustly derided, and now is as good a time as any to change that." She went on to praise the twist ending, the possible connections between the plot and the Iraq War, and the technical aspects, including the cinematography. Adam Chitwood of Collider praised the ending, the performances of Howard, Phoenix, and Hurt, and the cinematography. He also went on to say, "[The film] shines when it digs into themes of humanity's relationship with sorrow, and whether pain and violence can be excised from our lives or if we're destined to fall prey to harmful sins. Devoid of expectations, [the film] holds up far better than you may remember." Chris Evangelista of SlashFilm called it, "one of Shyamalan's most interesting films, and perhaps one of his best. A melancholy meditation on grief and fear, [because] it radiates sorrow in ways his other films do not. Yes, it does have that expected Shyamalan twist - two of them, in fact. But the film is more than its twists, and deserves to be watched with fresh eyes." Kayleigh Donaldson of Syfy Wire praised the cinematography, and said, "...[the film] stands as one of the strongest representations of Shyamalan's ethos, for better or worse."
Carlos Morales of IGN argued that the film was misunderstood at the time of its release because it was mismarketed as a horror film, as well as audience expectations that had been built up by Shyamalan's three previous films. "The real twist was that the movie they wanted wasn't the one Shyamalan made."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Simon & Schuster, publishers of the 1995 young adult book Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, claimed that the film had taken ideas from the book. The book had a plot which features a village whose inhabitants are secretly forced to live in the 1830s when the year is actually 1996. The plot of Shyamalan's movie had several similarities to the book. They both involve a village, which is actually a park in the present day (Shyamalan uses a late nineteenth-century village), have young heroines on a search for medical supplies, and both have adult leaders bent on keeping the children in their village from discovering the truth. In Haddix's novel, the truth is that the village is a tourist attraction; in the movie, that the adults had decided to withdraw from the outside world.
No lawsuit was ever filed over the similarity.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 11, 2005. This is currently the only M. Night Shyamalan film that does not have a Blu-ray version. The Village was also the last Shyamalan film to be released on VHS.