Its been two years since this came out in the cinema, and I’m finally getting to see it. Given that I’ve liked most of what Shyamalan has done, and given that Joaquin Phoenix is a star I’m a little surprised that it has taken me this long. I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense, and loved Unbreakable, but I did hate Signs.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten to see it, as there is a lot to admire here. As with most of Shyamalan’s films there are twists and turns. Some I saw coming, others took me a little by surprise, but I’ve never really been wowed by the sudden, unexpected twist. Afterall, if a story is to be believable and real then you should have some idea that the twist in question is possible. But this isn’t really a twist-film. Not is it a horror, monster-type film. Rather it is a character film.
The setting is an isolated, rural village, surrounded by a forest. And we open on a funeral, a funeral that could possibly have been prevented. The elders of the village founded it to escape the violence and crime of the towns. They have taken oaths never to return, even if medicines are needed. And then there is “those we do not speak of”. Strange creatures that inhabit the woods. They have come to a sort of truce with the villagers. The creatures will not enter the village, and the villagers must never enter the woods. They maintain a border, with watch-towers and torches burning through the night. Ready to hide if those we do not speak of should make an appearance.
Overall I really enjoyed this film, Phoenix is wonderful as the taciturn Lucius who doesn’t seem to fear the creatures, and who wishes to visit the towns in order to bring back medicine. Howard also gives a great performance as Ivy, the love interest. And then there is Brody as the “village idiot”. This threesome is the heart of the film.
The film’s action is quite slow, and is more atmospheric and tense rather than jumpy or scary. Although there are a few jump-in-your-seat moments. Although they are mainly down to overuse of sound cues and a soundtrack that tries too hard to make you scared. That being said there are moments of fear in the film, but the main one is because you believe the fear of a character, rather than that of a “scary movie”.