Once upon a time there was a small, quite, isolated countryside Pennsylvania village in a valley surrounded by an impenetrable forest where there be monsters. Or at least so the locals believe. They also believe that their alliance with the mysterious creatures is coming to an end.
Writer-director M Night Shyamalan’s posh-looking 2005 puzzle chiller is a let-down after the highs of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs – although there are nevertheless some good shocks and jumpy moments.
The easy-to-spot trick story plods along sedately and slowly for about three quarters of an hour, then sparks up briefly in the lively middle section before finally running along on a path to disappointment. Bryce Dallas Howard tugs at the heartstrings as a blind girl forced to enter the woods for medical supplies when the man (Joaquin Phoenix) she loves lies dying.
That excellent actor Phoenix fights a losing battle against his dull and passive role as the hero, leaving William Hurt to give the film’s best turn as village elder.
It’s entirely watchable, but the strain for Shyamalan to keep coming up with new Sixth Sense-style chiller ideas is severely showing here. It proved the turning point in his career, which went on a downward trajectory hereafter. However, he bounced back to score a hit in 2017 with Split, which grossed $123 million in the US.
It helps that there is a posh cast too. Adrien Brody, Michael Pitt, Sigourney Weaver, Judy Greer, Brendan Gleeson, Celia Weston and Jesse Eisenberg also star.
© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Movie Review 918
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