Heed my warning, for it is coming. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, a high-camp mélange of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two, is hands down the year’s worst film. It’s such a spectacular failure on every conceivable level that I kept hoping its meandering and moronic mise en scène would attain the insane visionary brilliance of John Boorman’s Zardoz. (But then, I realized, there can only be one Zardoz.) To say that Shyamalan has bitten off more than he can chew with The Village is an understatement—he’s practically drowning in food for thought. Beginning as an isolationist horror film about evil porcupine-people terrorizing a 19th-century American hamlet, The Village eventually morphs into the worst kind of post-9/11 allegory, telegraphing its every twisted move and screaming its earnest subtext hoarse. A slave to its story, The Village falls back on tried-and-true genre staples—the blind girl (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the village simpleton (Adrien Brody)—as cheap tension generators, probably necessary considering its (somewhat intentionally) cheap-looking villains. It’s nigh futile to talk about acting in Shyamalan’s hermetically sealed Skinner’s box. Howard is a pasty period-dress Barbie doll, cruelly manipulated by the director’s contrived narrative chess games. William Hurt blusters and bellows, channeling A.I.’s Professor Hobby to significantly lesser effect. The scar on Joaquin Phoenix’s lip has more personality than his meek character Lucius, while smug Oscar-winner Brody is insufferable in all his Method-Gump machinations. And, surprisingly, a dreamy Michael Pitt never shows his cock. “It…is…farce!” screams Hurt’s character, town elder Edward Walker, during one of the film’s “big” revelations, and you may be inclined to agree if only to avoid taking a moment of this dispiriting drivel seriously.
- M. Night Shyamalan
- M. Night Shyamalan
- Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Cherry Jones, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Pitt, Bryce Dallas Howard
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