Friday, June 27, 2008

REVIEW: The Village

After this movie, Shyamalan was still "The Creator of Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense."

I’d tell you about the best plot twist ever in a movie, but it would ruin the movie and the twist, and they’re both so great that I just won’t do it. It was a great plot twist for one reason: you didn’t even think there was going to be a twist. You thought it was a damn good, but straight-forward drama with emotional highs and lows and some good characters. Then BOOM! The movie smacks you with a twist ending so awesome that you need to watch the whole movie all over again, now aware of what it‘s secretly building towards. As I said, I’d be ruining the movie to even mention its name to all five of you who haven’t seen it, but if you want to see the movie, you’ll find it at the video store under “S.”

"I want to express my deep regret for this incident to my family, my teammates, to the fans..."

And it’s not The Sixth Sense either.

But that movie does also have its own plot twist, and a pretty good one, one that I’m not so worried about spoiling since by now, everyone knows that if it’s an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you’ll get a twist ending, sure as you’ll get a half-can of soda and no leg room on a Northwest flight. The Sixth Sense had a twist, Unbreakable had a less-known, but better one, and Signs turned from a claustrophobic story of surviving against the unknown to Rodney King-with-a-Roswell alien in the span of about a minute, which I guess constitutes a twist.

Oh, I get it. Someone finally made a horror movie about public speaking.

When trailers for 2004’s The Village started coming out, everyone was ready for Night’s latest twist. After all, the minimalist concept just begged for one. There’s a small town of pilgrims or luddites or something surrounded by forest in every direction, and if any of them go into the woods, the monsters who live there will get pissed off, kill them, and raid the town for good measure. Apparently, the town elders have a truce with the monsters that they’ll respect each other’s territory; it’s never clear if they spoke English, Monster, or Esperanto at those meetings. So everyone lives in their little technology-free, definitely-not-modern day clearing, willfully ignorant of the nature of the monsters because they’re so terrifying, or so someone has described them. Some people think that this movie was intended as a crack at the George W. Bush “policy” of “fear-mongering,” but then, a lot of those same people probably thought that Crystal Pepsi was Halliburton‘s fault. Dude, it’s a movie.

Joaquin Phoenix is a fairly old-looking young guy in the village who falls in love with a sweet, wise, courageous blind girl (Is there any other kind?) played by Bryce Dallas-Howard. Unfortunately, she has a village idiot of a best friend, played by Adrian Brody with a perfect blend of obnoxiousness and irritation. Joaquin and Bryce fall in love, blah, blah, get engaged, blah, blah, idiot friend stabs Joaquin out of jealousy before running off into the woods (It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, all right? I sure as hell ain’t going to watch this one again.). With Joaquin bed-ridden and his wound getting infected, the village elders (played by a tired William Hurt, as Bryce’s character’s father, and the mummified remains of Signourney Weaver) cautiously agree that the only way to save him is to send someone to a town across the woods to get medicine. Who best to undertake a perilous mission through the monsters and the unknown woods than the completely blind girl?

One of these people is blind. The other has horrible eyebags. Place your bets.

Before I get to the final act, let’s discuss the monsters briefly. They look like Kuato from Total Recall dressed up as Red Riding Hood, and aside from splashing streaks of red paint on people’s homes to let them know they’re going to come and kill them (which is a step they could have cut out since they apparently had already made the trip to their houses), nobody really ever dies or even has to fight them. It’s the Amish production of Assault on Precinct 13, as our heroes fight off waves of invaders--somewhere between one and three of them by my estimates--by running to their homes, futzing with doors, and hiding in their basements until the beasties lose interest and wander off. Oh, and the monsters get pissed off by the color red, but are warded away by the color yellow, which I think is some kind of… ahm… it means… err… metaphorically… Oh wait, I know what it means. It means it’s the DUMBEST WEAKNESS FOR A MONSTER SINCE THE ALIENS FROM SIGNS WERE REPULSED BY TAP WATER! I guess Night is a big Green Lantern fan.

The monsters are also afraid of garlic, shouldn’t eat after midnight (GMT), and die if they see their own reflections. I’m making that up because why have an underdeveloped monster with a dumbass rule when you can have a monster with tons of dumbass rules? They should have just gone the anachronistic action-comedy route, called this Ghostbusters, Harrisburg Division, 1650 AD, and sent the blind girl out in a yellow robe with a cross, a silver-topped cane, garlic cheese biscuits from Red Lobster (they’re delicious and repel the Minions of Hell!), a tank of liquid nitrogen, and a belt full of Blade’s ultraviolet light bombs.

Back-Slash for Vendetta

Anyway, it’s a moot point, because shortly before Bryce begins her quest to retrieve the miracle medicine that Joaquin is guaranteed to live if he gets and guaranteed to die if he doesn‘t, Hurt reveals to her that the monsters are just costumes the elders wear to scare the younger villagers away from leaving town. Hey, maybe this plot development is some ham-handed criticism of the War on Terror, but did Night have to reach it by resorting to a Scooby-Doo formula?
Bryce goes on her little mission, using her Daredevil-like sonar to keep a consistent bearing and avoid smacking into every branch and tree trunk along the way. Before long, she starts getting harassed by a monster! Uh, don’t we already know those are fake? Oh, but William Hurt said there might be real monsters out there after all! D’oh! In a better movie, Bud Abbott would be hilarious in this scene. By the way, if the village elders were okay with going into the woods for the sake of coming out of them in monster drag, why didn’t they get off their lazy asses and go into the woods to get the damned medicine themselves?

Bryce somehow kills the monster by leading it into a ditch, making one wonder how threatening this thing would be to someone with a weapon, some upper body strength, and maybe a little vision. But don’t worry folks, it wasn’t a real monster! Fooled you again! This was retarded Adrian Brody again, dressed up in a stolen monster costume and thinking he was playing some kind of game with her. So you might be furious at the stupid story and feeble attempt to get you with the same plot twist twice, but at least you didn’t just witness the most pathetic monster since the 2 MPH caterpillar/carpet from The Creeping Terror.

There is no Dana, only Zuul.

So she makes it to “town,” and if you are capable of beating Adrian Brody’s character in a game of Stratego, you’ve guessed by now that this is actually modern-day America. Man, I never would have guessed that this wasn’t the past, what with the total lack of reference to history, lineage, or specific religion. Bryce is greeted by a very confused park ranger, who nevertheless gets her some medicine, learning from his supervisor that the village elders have actually formed an isolationist community in the middle of a nature reserve (!). The supervisor himself (played by Night, whose Hitchcockian cameos have grown to full-blown Best Supporting Actor bids) tries to pack in as much exposition as possible before this turns into the talky epilogue to Psycho:

Who: A bunch of people who formed a support group after they all suffered some kind of traumatic loss because of society’s violence.

Where: They pooled their apparently formidable funds and bought out some space in a nature reserve (!) curiously devoid of wildlife where they can create their own perfectly violence-free, luddite society and isolate it from the rest of the crazy world. All the younger people in the village are presumably ignorant of the real world altogether. Oh, yeah… the village elders weren’t just rich enough to buy a publicly-funded nature preserve and employ some invisible security system to keep the 60 Minutes reporters out, but they were rich enough to buy their own personal no-fly zone right above their heads! I’m not making this up! Your flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia has a connection in Albany all so that William Hurt can convince 100 idiots they’re in colonial times!

Little Red Riding Hedgehog

Why: Because the outside world is so crazy, where a tiny minority of the populace attempts to murder people. Inside, there’s no violence at all. Except for the jealous revenge stabbing committed by Adrian Brody, but everyone really wanted to shun him anyway.

How: Apparently, with enough money, you can maintain even the most asinine, impossible-to-maintain illusion. If one of these people was Bill Gates, they probably could have paid the rest of Eastern Pennsylvania enough to go back to living in log cabins and churning butter (we do NOT all do that anyway, wiseass) to make the whole sham a little easier to maintain.

Sorry. I ran out of images from the movie that were interesting enough to make a comment about.

At this point…

No, I’m done. Go away.

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