½*/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B
starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt
written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
by Walter Chaw M. Night Shyamalan's films have become life support systems for his twists--empty, ponderous, self-righteous shells of ideas carried by cadaverous actors speaking in contraction-less sentences and spectral tones. He seems with Signs and now The Village to be espousing some kind of insane puritanical religion--call it the Church of Shyamalan, where the real world is too loutish a place for his gallery of close-mouthed martyrs, who exist in specially-created Hitchcockian microverses as airless as they are unlikely. It's not too much of a stretch to begin to view his mission as one where he challenges his East Indian self to make his increasingly self-aggrandizing cameos as difficult as possible. Philadelphia? No problem. Hooterville, PA--a little tougher. Turn of the century Amish-town? Byzantine, to say the least.