M. Night Shyamalan’s tale The Village is played out in the small Pennsylvanian homestead of Covington at the turn of the last century. The story revolves around the uneasy truce that the townsfolk share with the creatures that inhabit the bordering woods.
Bryce Dallas Howard stars as Ivy Walker and Joaquin Phoenix takes the role of Lucius Hunt. They produce similarly stoical performances, proving that in this instance less is more. Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt round out the cast with satisfactory contributions in what are fairly minor roles.
Cinematographer Richard Deakins creates a fiercely stylish backdrop that he gives real life to. Imbuing his villagescape with eerie lighting and the dull autumnal hues of pre-technicolor clothing. Oppressive mist hangs as though dead in the air whilst leafless trees sway in the wind.
James Newton Howard’s atmospheric score completes the portentous and eldritch ambience that is in the very fiber of the film. The horn and string arrangements keep hearts fluttering through the quieter moments until the pounding drums and thundering bass almost induce cardiac arrest in the more terrifying scenes.
That writer/director Shyamalan is savvy enough to allow his audience only the briefest peripheral glances of his demons naturally attenuates our fear of them. He demonstrates an apparently innate predilection for horror, an effortless ability to create tension and knowledge of his viewer’s expectations. He only disappoints slightly with poor pacing midway through.
Shyamalan fans will expect an epochal twist and won’t feel let down when it hits as it has considerable impact. Overall The Village isn’t perfect, but certain sections are simply masterclass standard examples of how horror should be done.
Just remember, do your very best not to scream.