Friday, May 31, 2013


WARNING: Spoilers for a generally disliked 9 year old film follow.

This is the tale of my love and passion for film biting me in the ass for once.  For being the guy who "knows more about movies than anyone" else going in.  I know what movies are getting made and what's going on before you even know it exists because of a trailer.  I was paying attention to The Village before you even had a sniff of it. That kind of smugness.

This weekend, M. Night Shyamalan opens After Earth, what many have decided to hate before going in and some are hoping its somewhat of a return to form. To be honest, I probably won't see After Earth until blu-ray.  Its something I do want to check out, but I'm not in a hurry and I'll watch on my own terms.  But in any circumstance, I felt now was any to share a good story regarding one of his films and give some good laugh/ammunition to my readers.
It was summer 2004.  I was in college.  I'm not going retrospectively act cool and say I never liked him, I was definitely a fan of Shyamalan back then.  I was a very big fan of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and even Signs (though, less so on Signs after subsequent viewings over the years, but that's for another day. Still decent popcorn entertainment though, Gerard).  Needless to say, The Village may have been my most anticipated movie that summer.  I was also a film nut, studying and wanting to be THE expert amongst my peers and others.  I wanted to be the go to guy when someone wanted an opinion or advice on a film.  I figured I could know everything.  To this day, and in my travels, I've found you're ALWAYS learning.  But, I was young, I'd learn that later.

Since I was that way, I was definitely keeping up with news items, reading magazines and the like of upcoming films.  Stuff like Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Report and of course, my all time fave since its inception in the mid-90s, Dark Horizons.  When reading up on M. Night's next film, The Village, I paid good attention.  M. Night was one of my favorite young up-and-coming directors at the time and I wanted to know his every move, details of his next project.  What was his next "twist" going to be.  Would there even be one?

During my reading, there was a production note in many places that M. Night had sent his cast (stars & extras) to a 19th century (1800s mind you) boot camp to prepare for the film.  M. Night had claimed that authenticity was very key in pulling this off.  He wanted everyone to have a feel for the time and to bring a genuine touch to the film.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Shyamalan wasn't messing around.  This would be a really genuine take on the film.  Then came the trailer (can't remember what it was attached to) and I was pretty thrilled.  I figured there was gonna be something with these wolves attacking the town.  Didn't know what, but it was key.  It looked like M. Night was taking his suspense to a horror/monster movie type level.  Maybe a little more gorier than his normal venture.  Couldn't wait to be there opening night with popcorn in hand!
So, July 30th comes. Opening night.  At this age, I was wanting to be smarter than the audience and figure it out before the movie did, as opposed to enjoying the ride.  In all fairness, a Shyamalan movie at this point was begging you to discover the twist before the final act before you even bought your ticket and The Village may have been the biggest victim of it.  I sat studying, enjoying the movie.  I figured the town elders were in on the monsters.  What I had NO CLUE of what that it was taking place in present day.  There was some bizarre terminology for the time period in the dialogue like "dumpster" and "alley" for example that just seemed so out of place.  I chalked it up to some crappy script writing.  But, because I had read about the 19th century boot camp, I never once thought the movie wasn't taking place in the 1800s. The thought never crossed my mind.  It was a production note, not a rouse. Had to be legit. Why would they go through all that.  I was surprised first that Joaquin Phoenix was sidelined before the final act, leaving the film to carry on the shoulders of a then unknown Bryce Dallas Howard.  That was quite surprising in itself, as I thought we'd be with Joaquin til the end.  Maybe that surprise was the first step in keeping my mind away from wandering.  Finally, when Bryce Dallas Howard crawls over the wall and there's a paved road and a car pulls up, I was quite shocked.  "Holy crap!" said 2004's Brandon.  I couldn't believe it.  I thought it was awesome and didn't see it coming.
When the movie came out on DVD later in the year, I couldn't wait to show my friends that had missed it in theaters.  I could not wait to see the shock on their faces share the amazement I had.  Guess what?  Not a single one shared it.  They all midway through pretty much had it figured out.  Disappointment.  I, the film "expert" amongst my peers was the gullible patron that fell for something that apparently was quite insanely obvious to everyone else.  That's what I get for trying to be so smart for my own good.  I really loved the end resolve of that movie.  I thought the reveal and that photograph of everyone before they created the little village was quite disturbing.  I got hooked by it, when it was something that should have been so obvious the whole way through.
Congrats, M. Night you got....ME with The Village.  And to date, it's the last movie of his I really enjoyed.  A good number of people really hate The Village, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't like it or ever enjoy it.  I think its ok.  Its better than anything he's directed since.  Does my mind lapse of not figuring this out make sense after this? Are there any other people out there who fell for this?  Maybe we could form a support group.

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