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The Village

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody, Bryce Howard, Judy Greer, Michael Pitt, Celia Weston, Liz Stauber, Joanna Reiner, Fran Kranz, Cherry Jones, Brendan Gleeson

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

The name M. Night Shyamalan drew crowds on opening weekend, along with expectations of psychological horror, from the creator of "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable" and "Signs." But "The Village" veers off in another direction as Shyamalan delves into the nature of fear.

The creepy story centers on the inhabitants of a bucolic late-19th century New England hamlet and the mysterious forces that emanate from the dark forest that surround it. Strict laws are enforced by a close-knit council of elders (Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Cherry Jones, Brendan Gleeson), primarily one that forbids any of the townspeople from entering the forbidden woods. When the village idiot (Adrien Brody) wanders off to pick some red berries - the color red is verboten, too - an animal is eviscerated and red slashes appear on people's doors. None of this sits well with young Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who has asked permission to venture out, nor with his spunky blind girl-friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) who's determined to obtain medicine.

This time, Shyamalan eschews the supernatural in favor of what amounts to an allegorical ghost story. Building with a slow, deliberate pace, introducing each of the pivotal characters and maintaining his usual stylish visuals, the 33 year-old writer/director/producer knows how to keep the tension taut. The ensemble acting is superb, particularly newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of director Ron Howard). Problem is: the tame, third-act plot payoff just isn't worth the build-up and doesn't come as much of a surprise if you listen carefully to the dialogue. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Village" is an anti-climactic yet suspenseful 6, revolving around the timely, thought-provoking ideas of restricting freedom and manipulating the mind.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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