Film Review: The Village (2004)

My anticipation wouldn't let me wait, and I wanted to see the film in a premium venue, so I reserved tickets a day ahead of time to see the 8:05pm screening of THE VILLAGE at ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood. ArcLight is one of the best theatres in town, but this wasn't one of their better nights. Not only that, but the film itself turned out to be a disappointment.

We arrived early, and thanks to the preprinted tickets (you order them online and print them out with your computer) we did not have to wait in line to get inside the theatre. Unfortunately advantage was almost canceled out by having to wait in line for popcorn. The upstairs concession stand was swamped, with lines reaching from the counter back to the opposite wall, completely blocking the hallway so that anyone trying to get to a theatre had to pursh their way through the people waitin to buy bottled water, mocha smoothies, etc.

We got in line approximately 7:40, which you should have given us plenty of time to make our purchase and find out seats. But no. It took twenty-five minutes to get to the counter, and when we finally did, the smoothie machines were empty (neither mocho nor mango!), so we had to settle for a cola like you'd get at any other theatre.

Normally, I would cut a theatre some slack;you can't blame them if there's a rush for snacks. But when I pay $14 apiece for tickets, I expect the people working behind the counters to act like a crack special ops squad, filling orders and making change like they've been trained all their lives to do just this.

By the time we got to the theatre, the trailers were running and the lights were going down. We couldn't read our print-out ticket to find our seats (reserved seating at the ArcLight guarantees your exact seat). A helpful usher helped us out by pointing us down the wrong row, which was filled. And the rows at ArcLight are long -- no aisle in the middle of the theatre to escape, so we had to walk all the way back (stepping over all those people a second time) and then find our way to the correct row.

When we got there, one of our seats was taken by one of a pair of women who objected to moving over when we pointed out their mistake. "What's the difference?" the asked. If the theatre hadn't been packed, it might not have made a difference. But we managed to explain that if we sat in other seats, inevitably the ticket holder entitled to those seats would ask us to move.

After all this, the film finally started. After the initial leap of anticipation, what followed was sorely disappointing. THE VILLAGE is not awful, but it comes close in a lot of ways. It's slow, and much of the drama is uninvolving (although there are some good scenes and good performances). The horror element seems a bit tacked on. There are creepy moments, but the film doesn't really build up to them - you just have to wait for them to happen.

This would have been tolerable if the story itself had been better. Structurally, it is interesting, with lots of clues planted and then explained later, involving several twists and surprise revelations. But these twists end up raising more questions than they answer. It's as if you have to wait through the whole film to find out what the film is really about, and then when you finally know - it's over! And nothing changes -- no lessons learned, no dramatic upheavals. Just back to the status quo.

My wife on the other hand liked the film. We got into an argument about it afterward, over a late dinner at a small coffee shop. If the film had just been flawed (like UNBREAKABLE), it wouldn't have bothered me so much. But I thought THE VILLAGE endorsed the unquestionably immoral behavior of the village elders in the film, while she insisted that the film was portraying the negative aspects of what they had done. I can't say much more without giving away too much. Maybe I'll go into it later, when everyone else has had a chance to see the film.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.