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The UnPopular Opinion: The Village

05.07.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

There was a time when the name M. Night Shyamalan brought excitement to movie fans. After THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS, it seemed the filmmaker could do no wrong. It may have been early for his name to be bandied above every film he made in a font almost as large as the movie title, but when you make three very strong features, you have "made it" in Hollywood. But, something happened after those three films and fans began to lose faith in Shyamalan. Now, eleven years after the release of THE VILLAGE, Shyamalan looks to be returning to his roots with the found footage horror film THE VISIT. I decided to revisit THE VILLAGE, the last Shyamalan movie I liked to see if it was still as good as I remembered it. In fact, it is better.

Roger Ebert placed THE VILLAGE on his list of most-hated movies, citing the twist ending as flimsy and unable to support the rest of the film. In retrospect, I was not shocked by the twist and felt it was a bit of a let down compared to Shyamalan's previous endings, but overall, the atmosphere that pervades THE VILLAGE makes the film a success. It works thanks to a great cast including future fan favorites Fran Kranz and Judy Greer alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jesse Eisenberg, William Hurt, Adrien Brody, and Sigourney Weaver. Probably the biggest twist in the movie was that it is not about Joaquin Phoenix, the highlight of Shyamalan's SIGNS, but rather the introduction to Bryce Dallas Howard's adult acting career.

THE VILLAGE is presented as a period film in which we are introduced to an isolated 19th century community led by Edward Walker (William Hurt). We are quickly indoctrinated in the unique rules of this society where the town is surrounded by a forest inhabited by mysterious and murderous creatures with whom the villagers hold a truce. The rules dictate that the villagers do not venture into the woods, but the curious young Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) gets involved in the breaking of that truce. What upset many movie-goers was just how well this setup works and how poorly they received the payoff of the twist ending. If THE VILLAGE had remained set in the 19th century with a different explanation for the creatures, I think fans would have received the movie a lot better. But, as it stands, the twist actually gets better with time.

The atmosphere of THE VILLAGE is solemn and full of dread. It feels remarkably similar to THE SIXTH SENSE in that regard with very little levity but you buy in completely that there is something ominous going on. While the hints of the twist are not laid out as brilliantly as in Shyamalan's debut, it is not the shock value of the truth that makes it work but rather the decision the village elders make to keep telling the lie to their friends and families. THE VILLAGE carries a message about conformity and the strictures of a totalitarian society and the price that must be paid in order to keep that control. William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver brilliantly play two of the elders who maintain this secret. Adrien Brody plays a convincing crazy person and Joaquin Phoenix is good as the film's "hero", but the sudden shift of focus to Bryce Dallas Howard and the need for her to save Lucius gives this film the boost it needs.

THE VILLAGE is designed to keep you on your toes. At one moment, you are rooting for Lucis and Ivy to continue their romance and want him to save the town from their oppressors. The next moment, Ivy has to save Lucius and learns the oppressors are in fact their parents and elders. At one moment, the villagers fear these creatures in the woods and the next we learn the villagers themselves are the monsters. There is also a moment where Walker tells his daughter the creatures are based on "real creatures" he knew about as legend, leaving that door open that maybe there are two different kinds of monsters in the woods. Despite the twist, and maybe because of it, THE VILLAGE can be looked at as a film of layers, none of which fully resolve the mystery and leave the viewer with a tension that there is still something we do not know. That mystery hidden within the twist is ultimately what makes the movie work for me.

It also helps that, from a visual standpoint, M. Night Shyamalan knows how to film a movie. THE VILLAGE is vibrant, whether it be the bright yellows and reds of the hoods the villagers and monsters wear or the flames and lanterns that pepper the 19th century set design, the movie pops with colors that play against the solemn and gray elements of the story. This also compliments James Newton Howard's brilliant musical score which was nominated for an Academy Award and ranks as one of the best film score of the last twenty years. Even if you question the screenplay for THE VILLAGE, you cannot argue with what it accomplishes visually and audibly.

Again, I am not defending what M. Night Shyamalan directed after THE VILLAGE, but I do defend THE VILLAGE as a quality film. In many respects, I like it significantly more than the acclaimed SIGNS. For me, THE VILLAGE was Shyamalan's last great movie before he descended into carbon copies of the twists that helped make him a star. But, don't lump his movies together based on their endings. I ask that you rewatch THE VILLAGE and then watch it again. View it with the twist as a memory and then watch it with the twist fresh in your mind. Both times, I assure you, you will find the film a lot more enjoyable than the first time you saw it. There are few horror films that work on every level, but THE VILLAGE succeeds as a scary movie, a cautionary tale, and one of the best Twilight Zone stories that didn't come from Rod Serling.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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11:30PM on 05/10/2015
The ending is what completely ruined this movie for me, end of story, it sucked.
The ending is what completely ruined this movie for me, end of story, it sucked.
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2:03AM on 05/08/2015
Would have been way better if the sheriff that Bryce met was not played by Shyamalan himself. I don't mind the twist but seriously the moment I saw him it just took me out of the story and ruined the whole movie.
Would have been way better if the sheriff that Bryce met was not played by Shyamalan himself. I don't mind the twist but seriously the moment I saw him it just took me out of the story and ruined the whole movie.
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-1
1:05PM on 05/07/2015

9/10.

I re-watched a few years after the 1st time. The fact that I still loved it despite knowing the twist is remarkable. It's not about the revelation itself, but what it means. Controlling people as an indirect way to cope with your grief is a very disturbing idea that could happen in real life. The movie is scary as Hell! J.N.H. deserved that Oscar nom, and Bryce Dallas Howard deserved one too.
I re-watched a few years after the 1st time. The fact that I still loved it despite knowing the twist is remarkable. It's not about the revelation itself, but what it means. Controlling people as an indirect way to cope with your grief is a very disturbing idea that could happen in real life. The movie is scary as Hell! J.N.H. deserved that Oscar nom, and Bryce Dallas Howard deserved one too.
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1:02PM on 05/07/2015
Echoing what another poster said: At this point, M. Night's twists were gimmicks; they weren't organic, they were expected...and not exactly with eager anticipation. It was also at this point his storytelling was lacking, which hurt the previous "Signs," and will hurt his later films, including "The Village."

Echoing what another poster said: At this point, M. Night's twists were gimmicks; they weren't organic, they were expected...and not exactly with eager anticipation. It was also at this point his storytelling was lacking, which hurt the previous "Signs," and will hurt his later films, including "The Village."

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12:11PM on 05/07/2015

Favorite Shyamalan Movie

"The Village" is, hands down, my favorite movie of Shyamalan (not his best, that's "Unbreakable". Just the one I can relate to very strongly for various reasons). I find your discussion of the amazing use of symbolic color and the excellent framing of his scenes to be enlightening (hate modern Shyamalan's scripts all you like, as a director, he has not lost his visual mastery). However, I do both agree and disagree with your views on its political message. Yes, it dies say something about
"The Village" is, hands down, my favorite movie of Shyamalan (not his best, that's "Unbreakable". Just the one I can relate to very strongly for various reasons). I find your discussion of the amazing use of symbolic color and the excellent framing of his scenes to be enlightening (hate modern Shyamalan's scripts all you like, as a director, he has not lost his visual mastery). However, I do both agree and disagree with your views on its political message. Yes, it dies say something about blindly following the leadership, and never asking questions, but the more interesting aspect of that is the elders themselves. The reason everything was built and put into place, and why the Howard/ Phoenix romance is so important to the movie, and why Brody's character lashes out is love. And I think any movie that will show crazy lengths people will go to for love (of any kind), is definitely worth watching.
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+0
11:16AM on 05/07/2015
I liked it, but not as much as his first three movies. Still a good flick. I think Night got himself into trouble with the twist endings in his first two movies. They were so good that everyone was looking for what the next big twist ending would be and he painted himself into a corner because he couldn't live up to the first two movies. People complain about the weak twist ending in Signs, but it wasn't really a twist because it was mentioned a few times in the movie. By the time The Village
I liked it, but not as much as his first three movies. Still a good flick. I think Night got himself into trouble with the twist endings in his first two movies. They were so good that everyone was looking for what the next big twist ending would be and he painted himself into a corner because he couldn't live up to the first two movies. People complain about the weak twist ending in Signs, but it wasn't really a twist because it was mentioned a few times in the movie. By the time The Village was released, people expected a shocking twist ending, and those are hard to pull off.
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11:10AM on 05/07/2015
At this point in M. Night's career the twists reserved for the end of his movies was a gimmick. I enjoyed the twists in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable like most people (Signs' ending was just ridiculous). By the time M. Night released The Village I remember expecting a twist. I went into the movie asking myself what it could be. When it was finally revealed, I remember feeling unmoved by it. In some sense, I felt like I knew that would be the twist all along. The only thing I could imagine
At this point in M. Night's career the twists reserved for the end of his movies was a gimmick. I enjoyed the twists in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable like most people (Signs' ending was just ridiculous). By the time M. Night released The Village I remember expecting a twist. I went into the movie asking myself what it could be. When it was finally revealed, I remember feeling unmoved by it. In some sense, I felt like I knew that would be the twist all along. The only thing I could imagine would cause such an apathetic response is that the director had created an impossible standard and expectation for himself. He built his career on narrow, slow moving stories that left viewers in a state of wonder until the veil was lifted at the end. He had no variety in storytelling. That is why The Village is so disliked. We expected more, and our imagination was bigger than the reveal.
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+0
11:05AM on 05/07/2015

Same here, but...

I too enjoyed The Village and there is some amazing cinematography and performances within. My biggest gripe was that almost a full year before it's release, when the first teaser trailer dropped I watched it and said, "So what, they are living in the bubble while the modern world is happening around them?" I based this on clues and war I knew of his style. The more trailers that came out and then sitting in the theater I kept thinking, "I'm right.. thats what's happening." It was sort of like
I too enjoyed The Village and there is some amazing cinematography and performances within. My biggest gripe was that almost a full year before it's release, when the first teaser trailer dropped I watched it and said, "So what, they are living in the bubble while the modern world is happening around them?" I based this on clues and war I knew of his style. The more trailers that came out and then sitting in the theater I kept thinking, "I'm right.. thats what's happening." It was sort of like sneaking and seeing your presents before Christmas day; how disappointing the real moment becomes when you already know.
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8:23AM on 05/07/2015
The setup for the twist is what pisses me off for this film. Pretending that the film takes place in the 19th century is only to fool the viewer, and not any character in the film. The tombstones at the start of the film are there to fool the audience, because what difference would it make for the villagers if the year was 2015? The year is irrelevant for them.
The setup for the twist is what pisses me off for this film. Pretending that the film takes place in the 19th century is only to fool the viewer, and not any character in the film. The tombstones at the start of the film are there to fool the audience, because what difference would it make for the villagers if the year was 2015? The year is irrelevant for them.
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7:13AM on 05/07/2015
Sorry, but The Sixth Sense was his only good movie, and even that was boring as shit. Unbreakable was decent, but it failed to deliver. The rest of his movies are borderline bad, to awful... and don't even get me started on that abomination called The Happening. That movie, and Deep Impact (Mimi Leder) are 4 hours of my life that were entirely taken away from me; that had absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. When I lay on my death bed, I will remember those 4 hours (if only for a brief
Sorry, but The Sixth Sense was his only good movie, and even that was boring as shit. Unbreakable was decent, but it failed to deliver. The rest of his movies are borderline bad, to awful... and don't even get me started on that abomination called The Happening. That movie, and Deep Impact (Mimi Leder) are 4 hours of my life that were entirely taken away from me; that had absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. When I lay on my death bed, I will remember those 4 hours (if only for a brief moment) of my life that I wasted away spent on those two movies.
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10:00AM on 05/07/2015
So when your on your death bed and someone asks you if you have any regrets, those two movies are what you're gonna tell people?
So when your on your death bed and someone asks you if you have any regrets, those two movies are what you're gonna tell people?
4:59AM on 05/07/2015
Jesse Eisenberg! I didn`t know he`s been acting for so long.
Jesse Eisenberg! I didn`t know he`s been acting for so long.
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4:47AM on 05/07/2015
The Village is one of M.Night's better films (among The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable). It held my attention all the time and didn't see the twist coming. It really kept its cards close to its chest and paid off great in the end. I hope one day M.Night can return to his top form.
The Village is one of M.Night's better films (among The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable). It held my attention all the time and didn't see the twist coming. It really kept its cards close to its chest and paid off great in the end. I hope one day M.Night can return to his top form.
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4:26AM on 05/07/2015
I remember walking out of this movie after like 45 mins. Awful movie. Just awful.
I remember walking out of this movie after like 45 mins. Awful movie. Just awful.
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4:20AM on 05/07/2015
The Village is great. Both the twists got me when I saw it in theaters and I wasn't mad about them. I always defend The Village.
The Village is great. Both the twists got me when I saw it in theaters and I wasn't mad about them. I always defend The Village.
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3:33AM on 05/07/2015

This Movie is

TRASH any way you cut it. Defending this movie is like defending shit. oooooooooooh but at least its soft and warm and buttery.,.....wait wtf? why am i talking about shit?
TRASH any way you cut it. Defending this movie is like defending shit. oooooooooooh but at least its soft and warm and buttery.,.....wait wtf? why am i talking about shit?
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-3
3:06AM on 05/07/2015

All Time Low

Hands down the worst film in my 50 year history of movie-going. The biggest letdown, the stupidest idea, the dumbest ending. It managed to forever taint my memory of Night's first couple of great films and make me forever hate Bryce Dallas Howard for all of the nepotistic work she takes away from real actresses. So this ranks as the worst Unpopular Opinion column ever.
Hands down the worst film in my 50 year history of movie-going. The biggest letdown, the stupidest idea, the dumbest ending. It managed to forever taint my memory of Night's first couple of great films and make me forever hate Bryce Dallas Howard for all of the nepotistic work she takes away from real actresses. So this ranks as the worst Unpopular Opinion column ever.
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+2
3:06AM on 05/07/2015
I am also one of the few who enjoyed The Village and one of the even fewer who liked the twist ending. I like the idea behind it, this idea that these people were so fed up with society that they went off and made their own. I don't know if it would have been better if we had known the truth from the beginning, but I feel like the twist is appropriate given that only a few of the characters actually know the entirety of the truth. I will even go so far as to say that I thought the explanation
I am also one of the few who enjoyed The Village and one of the even fewer who liked the twist ending. I like the idea behind it, this idea that these people were so fed up with society that they went off and made their own. I don't know if it would have been better if we had known the truth from the beginning, but I feel like the twist is appropriate given that only a few of the characters actually know the entirety of the truth. I will even go so far as to say that I thought the explanation made it a better film for making it unique as opposed to something as simple as a creature roaming the woods. There's nothing really original about that, but a community of people choosing to live in the woods in a model of society from centuries ago? That's a pretty original idea.
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3:01AM on 05/07/2015
I always find it sad that more people didn't enjoy this one, I personally loved it. I really enjoyed the scenes of Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix together. I get why some people didn't enjoy it, but none of those reasons seem to bother me.
I always find it sad that more people didn't enjoy this one, I personally loved it. I really enjoyed the scenes of Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix together. I get why some people didn't enjoy it, but none of those reasons seem to bother me.
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2:43AM on 05/07/2015
Fall for a lame twist once, shame on me. Fall for it three more times, shame on Shyamalan.
Fall for a lame twist once, shame on me. Fall for it three more times, shame on Shyamalan.
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-2
2:21AM on 05/07/2015
Only film I've ever walked out of the cinema on.
Only film I've ever walked out of the cinema on.
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1:19AM on 05/07/2015
Such a dumb movie, but this guy was all hype, no substance or diversity of talent. This film is one of those things I told people to avoid, and when people talked about how they were disappointed in it, I just reminded them I warned them about it.
Such a dumb movie, but this guy was all hype, no substance or diversity of talent. This film is one of those things I told people to avoid, and when people talked about how they were disappointed in it, I just reminded them I warned them about it.
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1:15AM on 05/07/2015
I really enjoyed the movie. My biggest complaint, (and one I believe kind ruined the suspense) was the scenes in the woods with the creature toward the end of the movie. I believe it should have been edited differently. Instead of telling the audience that the creature isn't real before we see it skulking around the woods, it should have been revealed that it wasn't real until the very end. This way when Ivy is hiding from the creature the audience doesn't know the creature isn't real yet, and
I really enjoyed the movie. My biggest complaint, (and one I believe kind ruined the suspense) was the scenes in the woods with the creature toward the end of the movie. I believe it should have been edited differently. Instead of telling the audience that the creature isn't real before we see it skulking around the woods, it should have been revealed that it wasn't real until the very end. This way when Ivy is hiding from the creature the audience doesn't know the creature isn't real yet, and it's more suspenseful.
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