M. Night Week: How The Village has remained relevant over the years


Many saw The Village as the beginning of a decline in quality from Shyamalan but its themes about misinformation remain as relevant as ever, even over a decade after the film’s debut.

In 2004, M. Night Shyamalan was coming off of a hot streak with his critically beloved psychological horror films. Audiences were flocking to see any cinematic venture with Shyamalan’s name attached due to his reputation for creating mind-blowing plot twists. The Sixth Sense and Signs were two of his biggest claims to fame but The Village was the first film of his to be met with lukewarm reception.

The Village is about a town sequestered in the woods, cut off from the rest of civilization. The film initially appears to take place in the 19th century. The people that live there never leave out of fear of mysterious hooded creatures referred to as “Those We Don’t Speak Of” that live in the surrounding forests.

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However, the film’s “twist” is that the movie actually takes place in modern times and the village is an anachronistic staple of a group of elders who decided they were better off living outside of civilization, which many believed corrupt and full of unspoken evils. In order to protect their people, they used an old urban legend to their advantage and created “Those We Don’t Speak Of” to frighten and control their loved ones into staying put in the village, even going so far as to wear monstrous costumes.

Even though Shyamalan assembled a star-studded cast including the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Adrien Brody, this “twist” did not bode well with many. Audiences were dissatisfied with the film’s lack of a supernatural presence and critics didn’t think the ending merited the character’s journey, notably, Roger Ebert was a big naysayer of the film’s message.

That said, as with all polarizing films, there were plenty of people who were genuinely pleased and surprised by the gravitas of the twist and what it represented, not only within the film’s universe but in the real-world as well.

Scare Tactics

The Village is a film existing in a post-9/11 world and it is relevant to address this because I honestly believe some of the genius in its creation is Shyamalan’s exploration of the very worst of human ego.

Politics and media have always participated in the creation of scare tactics to persuade the general public to believe in and support their causes or simply to drive up views. It’s why the news is never positive and always showcases the bleakness of humanity, because people want to stay informed and so they’re told by figureheads, leaders, and reporters about the horrors of the world in order to sell products or get them to donate money to specific causes or just to keep the masses fearful and in line with political agendas.

I won’t get too nihilistic here but I think anyone who has paid attention to the news circuit in the past decade is aware of what I’m referring to. Scare tactics are a part of our lives now, and often they’re subliminal, occurring right under our noses without us even being aware.

And isn’t that exactly what happens in The Village? The elders decide to wield an old urban legend as a weapon against their community to keep everyone in line with their beliefs. They go so far as to use the murder of one of their citizens as an example of the monsters’ treachery, refusing to acknowledge or admit to their many lies, they would rather extort and twist their circumstances to add to a continued web of deceit.

Adrien Brody as Noah Percy in The Village (2004) — Photo Credit © 2004 Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Why the Scorn?

I think the reason people were disappointed with The Village had less to do with the movie and its story and more to do with audience expectations. Up until this film, Shyamalan had made a name for himself as a psychological thriller guru, introducing twisted stories of aliens and the paranormal, suddenly this new film took all of that and then pulled the curtain down, revealing it was just a ruse. I can see fans feeling as if the wool was pulled over there eyes when they expected another fantasy and instead got a bracing reality check about con-men and women scamming people.

Perhaps if the marketing for the film had been different and neglected to make the movie a “twist” at all, revealing up front the elder’s intentions as the focal plot point, then critics and fans alike would have gone in to see The Village with an open-mind.

Imagine if The Village was released in theaters in today’s cultural climate. I think it would have received far more acclaim for it is a near perfect metaphor for our present-day politics. Actually it’s almost eerie how much the plot of The Village resonants with a certain make-up “wall crisis”, but I digress. That’s not the only reason the film would fit into the 2019 horror line-up either, horror is going through something of a genre resurgence right now and has become more experimental and socially conscious than ever before. If The Village came out now instead of 2004, it might even be hailed as a high-point for the year’s genre releases.

dark. Next. M. Night Week: The Sixth Sense is first rate

You can catch M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film this weekend when Glass (the follow-up film to Split and Unbreakable) opens wide January 18th. Check your local theater for listings.

The Village is currently available to stream on Netflix.