M. Night Shyamalan has a knack for channeling the spirit of Rod Serling each time he sits down to write and ultimately direct and produce a new film. When Serling’s spirit is unavailable, then it seems that Hitchcock will do. The Village, like each of his previous films, is carried off in rather subtle tones both in visual textures and storytelling.
The Village again begins with little or no action but somehow compels us to begin to ask questions about the deceptively simple story unfolding b…fore us. Just as he brought out the incredible talent of the young Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, the surprising talent in this film is obviously Bryce Dallas Howard as the blind Ivy Walker. At times she is capable of carrying the film entirely on her shoulders. Fortunately that is not often the case as a well rounded supporting cast includes William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Joaquin Phoenix playing a Gladiator named Lucius.
I won’t reveal the ending, but if you are at all familiar with M. Night Shyamalan’s work you already know it will be a twist or two. This one is less of a surprise. I’m not sure that it would even be possible, even by Hollywood’s standards, but it is a satisfying conclusion.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix is quite stunning. That is not to say that the sound is either dynamic or outstanding in its nature. Simply put, the ambient sounds are used to create a disturbing reality to the dreary scenes we see before us. Musical clues are above anything else essential to the atmosphere being created. They come through with spine tingling clarity. You won’t find much use for your sub here, but truthfully it would be inappropriate. I was amazed at how clearly and well placed each branch breaking in the distance was portrayed here.
The Village is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The wide screen enhancement is roughly 1.75:1. The colors are somber and almost dreary throughout most of the film, so the transfer must rely on the pivotal colors of red and yellow to show its full strength. While I found this to be a pretty nice transfer, I still found the inconsistency of color and lighting to be a bit distracting. Doubtless much of this was intended, but I feel the transfer needed a bit more color correction to smooth the effect a bit. Flesh tones are actually near reference. Blacks are also quite good with little grain outside what was obviously intended. There were no film specks or defects visible and almost no digital artifact or shimmering.
- “Deconstructing The Village” is nearly a half hour and one of the better “making of” documentaries I’ve seen. You can watch this all at once or in 6 pieces that concentrate on separate aspects of the film. This is a format mastered by the Lord Of The Rings DVD’s and an improvement to the standard single play features. Now you can go directly to what interests you, be it costumes or music.
- “Bryce’s Diary” is a short piece done by Bryce Dallas Howard who is a newcomer to the process. It is interesting to see the film’s creation through her eyes.
- “M. Night’s Home Movies” is quite bizarre. I guess it’s an early film project.
- There are the usual galleries and a THX optimizer. You’ve seen them all before. The menu is relatively easy to navigate.
There is a nice little collection of deleted scenes, each accompanied by an explanation by M. Night Shyamalan.
I’m not sure how to categorize this film. It is certainly scary enough to be considered a horror film. Perhaps its weakness can be found in how hard it attempts to make a social statement. If the comment on life is its main theme, I believe the film leaves the audience with far more questions than answers. If the attempt is primarily to frighten, then all I can say is, “Try not to scream out loud”.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes with director’s introductuion
- “Deconstructing The Village” – a look at the making of the film
- “Bryce’s Diary”
- A special M. Night Shyamalan home movie
- Production photo gallery