WARNING this post contains a lot of spoilers from M. Night Shyamalan “The Village.” You should definitely go watch it if you somehow managed to avoid it for the past ten years.
A few weeks ago a post for “The top 10 worst plot twists in movie history” found its way to me via a friend on Facebook. Like a goober with a couple of minutes to kill, I clicked on it. To no surprise of my own, M. Night Shyamalan had managed to carve out a good handful of those ten spots all for himself. What did surprise me was that “The Village” occupied one of those spots.
I had watched The Village back in early 2005 when it was released on DVD. Like everyone else, I expected it to be a horror movie where this small community of villagers are killed off one by one by the monsters in the woods that surround them. When I discovered the plot twist, I was surprised and intrigued. I remember talking about it at work the next day and convincing another coworker, who was hoping for another slasher flick when she had originally seen it in theaters, that what it turned out to be was actually a lot better. In the end she did agree with me. Today I hope to do the same with you.
Last Saturday night, when scrolling through my Netflix account, I saw The Village. I thought back to the Facebook article and decided to watch it again. I wanted to know if my feelings for it would be any different after I had known the ending and the movie had ten years to age.
My feelings were different. I liked it even more. The movie had aged beautifully. When the credits rolled, I was left with a sense of intrigue for what might happen to the members of the Village from that point on. Before we get there though, let’s talk about some other little things I noticed on my second viewing of The Village that I didn’t catch the first time.
-Hold my hand
Bryce Dallas Howard’s Character, Ivy Walker is, of course, blind. (I noticed this the first time, smart ass.) She does an extremely good job navigating the tiny village on her own with only the use of a walking stick. However, when she gets scared(which she does despite her tough exterior.), Ivy holds her hand out directly in front of her body until one particular person grabs it. That person is Lucius Hunt, Joaquin Phoenix’s character. They do this from the beginning of the movie, before they ever confess their feelings for each other.
When the young man on the guard post sees one of the “One’s they don’t speak of” and rings the town bell to warn the village, everyone flees to their basements. Lucius stays outside just a moment too long driven by the need to help others get inside, but even more by his curiosity about the “One’s they don’t speak of.” Meanwhile, Ivy stands in the open doorway to her home. Her sister is calling her to close the front door and come hide in basement with her. She refuses. She says she knows that Lucius is still outside because he hadn’t checked in them yet. She steps further out into the darkness and sticks her hand out. We get a shot from the side of her hand. We can see one of the creatures in the distance coming closer to her. We can hear it growling. She can no doubt hear it just as well, but she keeps her hand out in the darkness. Her sister is begging her to close the door and the creature is now running toward her. Just when we think it is going to grab her, a hand clasps hers. It is Lucius’s. He guides her inside, closes the door, and leads her into the basement in what seems like one swift, fluid motion.
This happens again at the scene of Ivy’s sister’s wedding. While dancing and celebrating, Ivy stops because she hears screaming coming from outside. Ivy, who is more reliant on her hearing, seems to hear it first. A moment later the others stop and listen. Chaos breaks out as everyone flees the reception. Ivy reaches her hand out searching for that one person to grab hold of it and sure enough he does.
After both characters confess their feelings for each other, rumors start to spread around the village. Noah Percy, played by Adrian Brody, visits Lucius’s small hut. Noah, who you’ll remember was mentally disabled, had a special relationship with Ivy too. She had played games with him and he no doubt had grown quite fond of her. Lucius, who can see the distress on Noah’s face from the news, tries to explain that there “are different kinds of love.” Instead when he turns to face Noah, he finds that Noah has plunged a knife into his stomach. Lucius falls to the ground.
Moments later, one of the villagers tells both Ivy and her sister that they have found Noah with blood on his hands, but it was not his. Ivy processes everything in an instant and walks as fast as she can toward Lucius’s hut. Her hand held out searching the air frantically her entire way over. When she makes it all the way to his doorstep with her palm still open, you can see the mix of devastation and betrayal in her body language. (Props to Bryce Dallas Howard’s beautiful performance here.) She walks inside to find Lucius still on the floor and lifeless.
Watch the movie again and I guarantee that you will not find one other character that grabs Ivy’s hand. Even when Noah and her own father guide her around, they do so by her arm. This is a subtle beautiful relationship between two characters that gives real heart to the film.
-Nothing is left to Chance
One of the worst sins a writer can commit is to have a character get out of a tough situation by sheer luck. Your audience will feel cheated and it may be enough for them to stop viewing your work altogether. If there is ever luck, it should be bad luck.
Night Shyamalan did not let his characters get any strokes of good luck in “The Village” and I applaud him for it.
When Ivy is wandering the woods in search of the medicine to cure Lucius, she slips into large pit in the ground. She is able to react quickly enough to grab the edge of the pit to keep herself from falling all the way to the bottom. She gathers her strength and pulls herself up. When she reaches the surface she finds that she is covered in mud and that the “safe colored” tunic she was wearing is probably useless against the monsters of the wood. (Bad luck) Just before she continues on, she finds a tree that had toppled over. Its pointed roots were sticking out parallel to the ground.
A few moments later, Ivy hears movement coming from somewhere in the woods around her. As it comes closer, she realizes it is one of the creatures. She tries her best to avoid it until she makes it back to the toppled tree. She stands in front of the pit with arms wide open. The beast charges for her. At the last moment she jumps out of the way and the monster falls into the pit.
Since we saw this pit earlier, we can not only accept this scene but appreciate the cleverness of the character to use something that was a setback for her to be the final demise of her attacker.
-Ivy knows more than you think
Once Ivy decides she has to leave the Village, her father takes her aside and explains that he and the other elders had been dressing up as the monsters all this time. Ivy is shocked, of course, and starts to ask her father questions about the recent events with the “One’s they don’t speak of.” Most of which, he deftly explains.
Once Ivy reaches the end of the woods and climbs the wall to the outside world, she is confronted by a young modern day park ranger. He is of course astonished by her dress, and way of speaking. During an awkward conversation between the two there is one key moment when the young ranger says “You live in there?” pointing to the concrete wall enclosed “Animal Reserve.” Ivy takes a moment to process what he said. She, of course, can’t see him or the “Walker Company Patrol” patch on his jacket. However there is a comprehension on her face (more props for Dallas Howard.) and disappointment when she simply says “yes.”
She heard the siren of the rangers SUV when she first climbed the wall. She heard the ranger’s radio when someone responded to the call he made when he initially found her and she climbed the metal ladder to get back into the woods after the ranger retrieved the medicine. She may not fully understand what is going on but she knows that she and the other villagers are being tricked about more than just the creatures in the wood.
On the very last scene of the movie, the elders are gathered around Lucius’s bed. They are talking about how they will continue their way of life. One of the village boys announces that Ivy has returned with medicine and had killed one of the ones they do not speak of on her way to retrieve it. Noah’s mother starts to burst out in tears. It turned out that the monster that Ivy had killed was Noah who had stolen one of the elder’s costumes he found under the floorboards of their home. The elders were trying to weave his death into a way they could continue their tradition. They would tell everyone that he was killed by one of the monsters. They believed that Ivy wouldn’t know the difference and now she would believe the monsters to be real. They decided to hold a quick vote if they would like to continue the tradition of the village and one by one they all stand to agree.
Moments later, Ivy finally enters the room and reaches a hand out. One of the elders grabs it to guide her in, but she squirms out of his grip, she finds her way to Lucius’s bedside and grabs hold of his hand. When she says “I’m back” to him you can hear his erratic breathing. He was probably couscous during the whole scene.
Yes, the Village was far different from your typical horror flick and I’m not totally sure you can really label it as horror. What it is, is a really well told story that holds you until the end. It can give you secrets upon multiple viewings as I’ve proven here. That’s why I think it’s not only unfair to label this movie as “One of the worst plot twists in Hollywood history” but it should be regarded as one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best films.
Do you think The Village is underrated? Are there any films or books you think are highly underrated? If so leave them in the comments below.