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A Mystery and Thriller film by M. Night Shyamalan set in a turn-of-the-century village in Pennsylvania. The villagers believe that the woods surrounding their hamlet are inhabited by fell supernatural creatures, and fear to venture outside.Like most of Shyamalan's movies, the film has a Twist Ending. It was not as well-received as his previous films and is considered by some to be the point his movies started going downhill. Still, it has a devoted fanbase, and it is quite possible it may become a Cult Classic.Rumors exist that it was partially inspired by a Young Adult novel called Running Out of Time.Also note: As this is a suspense film, plot twists come steadily and often. So naturally, this page is spoiler-heavy.
Broken Aesop: On Edward Walker's part, if not the M. Night Shyamalan's. His idea seems to be, roughly, that going back to a rural life style c. 1800s will protect their children from the violence their families experienced in the cities. As the film makes plain, though, violence is not absent even in rural, simple communities, and retreating to such a past makes formerly treatable injuries life-threatening. Worse, it requires them to lie and terrorize their children.
Broken Streak: Instantly moved Shyamalan from the next great director of his time to a laughingstock.
The Outside World: The blind protagonist is journeying to outside world beyond the titular village on a mission to retrieve medicine despite the monsters. The outside world is actually modern 90s society, and the Elders had only set up the village to appear to be in the 1800s and surrounded by unknown dangers in order to start over and protect their kin from the murders and violence they witnessed in the "real world".
Personal Effects Reveal: How the Twist Ending commences. The Walkers open a trunk full of "forbidden objects" and stare at a photograph of themselves in younger days... wait, is that photo in color? And are those fashions from The Seventies???
Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Walker, and actually all the town elders in a way. The movie actually deserves credit for not taking the tired path of mean puritan judges who won't listen to reason. True, there are still falsehoods being kept, but they don't resort to physical cruelty, violence and trials to maintain it, and at least a reason for doing so is presented in the end. This is perfectly justified; the movie is actually set in the present day, and the elders created the village as a refuge from the greed, cruelty and violence of the modern world, hoping they could raise their children to be Perfect Pacifist People through example. It mostly worked, as pretty much everyone is kind and empathetic. Unfortunately, they didn't account for the possibility of bearing children with mental illnesses; it's implied that Noah's condition would be treatable with antidepressants, but instead he ends up attacking Lucius and later Ivy.
Also subverted. Mr. Walker strongly implies he chose to let Ivy go blind rather than get her medicine in the Towns, and Noah's parents cruelly and foolishly use solitary confinement to punish him for his uncontrollable actions, making him ultimately Go Mad from the Isolation.
Scare Dare: The test is to stand with your back to the haunted woods; first one to give up loses.
Secretly Wealthy: Implied with Edward Walker. It's his name on the huge nature preserve that the village is situated in, and he seems to have some political clout for him to be able to get a no-fly zone implemented for that area. At one point Edward talks of his brother's talent for making money, so he likely inherited his wealth.
Was It Really Worth It?: The elders end up asking themselves this in the end; despite the sacrifices they both made and forced on their children (Ivy's blindness was stated to have been preventable in a modern hospital), and successfully isolating themselves from the outside world, violence sprang up in their pacifist community anyway due to Noah's mental illness. They can blame Noah's death on "Those we don't speak of" to cement the ruse, but how long can it really last?
Given the interest of the guards at the end of the film, sooner or later someone is going to stumble upon it from the outside.