The Village is a 2004 American thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan about an end-of-the-19th-century village whose inhabitants live in fear of the creatures inhabiting the woods beyond it. The movie was shot in a re-creation of a 19th-century village outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, following Shyamalan’s penchant for staging his films near his hometown. The movie opened to reviews ranging from overall negative to mixed and was not as financially successful as some of Shyamalan’s earlier movies, although it did gross over three times its budget. Despite this, the film gave composer James Newton Howard his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
The occupants of a small village live in fear of nameless creatures in the surrounding woods. They have built a barrier of oil lanterns and watch towers that are constantly manned to keep watch for “Those We Don’t Speak Of.” It is explained that the villagers have a long-standing truce with the monsters; the villagers do not go into their woods, and the creatures do not enter their village. The villagers execute a well-rehearsed alarm, in which they rush home, lock their doors and hide in their cellars. The dead, skinned bodies of small animals start to appear around the village.
After the funeral of a seven year old boy, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) asks the village elders for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from “the towns”. His request is denied and later he is admonished by his mother, Alice (Sigourney Weaver), for wanting to go to the towns, which the villagers describe as “wicked places where wicked people live.” The Elders seem to keep dark secrets of their own in black boxes, the contents of which they keep hidden from their own offspring. After Lucius makes a short venture into the woods, the creatures leave warnings around the village in the form of splashes of red paint (referred by the villagers only as “the bad color”) on all the villagers’ doors.
Meanwhile, Ivy Elizabeth Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), the blind daughter of the chief Elder, Edward Walker (William Hurt), informs Lucius that she has strong feelings for him, and he returns her affections. They arrange to be married, but things go horribly wrong when Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), a young man with apparent developmental problems who is wise to the elders’ trick, stabs Lucius with a knife that he kept hidden away in his pocket. He does this because he is in love with Ivy himself. Noah is locked in a room until a decision is made about his fate.
Edward goes against the wishes of the other Elders, agreeing to allow Ivy to pass through the forest and seek out medicine for Lucius. Before she leaves, Edward explains the secret of the creatures – they are “fake” – bogeymen created by the Elders to keep the children from entering the woods in an attempt to keep them from leaving the village. Edward does mention, however, that “Those We Don’t Speak Of” were based upon legends that he had heard at one time, of “real creatures” living in the woods. Ivy seems only partly convinced by this explanation, inquiring whether the skinned animals were “also fake”.
While Ivy is traveling through the forest, one of the beasts suddenly attacks her. She tricks it into falling into a deep hole to its death. The creature is actually Noah in a costume that he had found previously under the floor of the room where he was kept locked away.
Ivy eventually finds her way to the far edge of the woods, where she encounters a high, ivy-covered wall. After she climbs over the wall, a park ranger driving a Land Rover with the words “Walker Wildlife Preserve” on the side spots Ivy and is shocked to hear that she has come out of the woods. He then learns that Ivy’s last name is “Walker”.
The village was founded some time in the late 1970s, when Edward Walker, professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic after his father had been murdered. He asked them if they wished to join him in “an idea” he had. From this apparently grew “the village”, a secluded town in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward’s family fortune; a place where they would be protected from any aspect of the outside world. The head ranger, Jay (M. Night Shyamalan), explains to the park ranger that the Walker estate pays to maintain the ranger corps, the rangers make sure no one goes into the wildlife preserve to “disturb the animal(s)”, the Walker estate “paid off” the government to keep the entire wildlife preserve a “no-fly zone”.
The ranger retrieves medicine from a ranger station and Ivy returns to the village. The Elders open their black boxes, each containing mementos from their lives in the actual outside world, including one or more items related to their past traumas. All the Elders sit around Lucius’ bed. Edward points out that Noah’s death will allow them to continue deceiving the rest of the villagers that there are “creatures” in the woods and all the Elders take a vote to continue living in the village. Ivy arrives and says “I’m back, Lucius.”
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First Published: May 6, 2012 – Last Updated: May 7, 2013