Thoughts on “The Village in the Woods”

So, now that I’m done with John Carpenter and more classic and noted movies, it’s time to return to the cheap movies that I find while browsing and decide to watch and comment on.  The one this time is “The Village in the Woods”.  The basic premise is that a young couple is recruited into a scam by a strange woman — we only find out about the strange woman later — to pretend that the woman of the couple is a long-lost inheritor of an inn in a small, incredibly out-of-the-way village so that they can sell it and make a lot of money off of it that would allow them to do … other stuff.  However, the villagers themselves are weird and very strange things happen, leading to the belief that there is something sinister and supernatural going on here.

I’d like to start by saying that the atmosphere and tension in the movie is actually pretty good.  I myself felt tense at times — something that rarely happens for me — and it does work to trigger those emotions without noticeably — at least most of the time — dragging things out.  One thing to note about that approach, though, is that unlike some other horror movies in these cases there’s no story or real supernatural threats or scares going on, so it’s jump scares and tension, which leaves nothing for the audience to do but follow the plot, which is also what’s going to provide the important context for those scares and tension.  And in this movie the plot fails it (although not as badly as “The Thing” did for me).

The idea of the couple trying to run a scam on the villagers while the villagers try to set them up for some strange purpose is actually a really good on (although it has been done before).  The problem is that the movie far too early on makes it clear that something supernatural is going on, and so loses the biggest benefit of that sort of set-up, which is the doubt.  The car strangely runs out of gas right at the beginning in an ominous fog, and they can’t get it started again.  Fog, again, is pretty much everywhere.  The villagers act really, really strangely,  As things progress, the old man that they for some reason can’t get out of the inn talks about strange occurrences and points out the grave of his wife.  Even most of the tension is simply atmospheric and not the result of the interactions with the villagers.  So we know early on that something strange is going on and that it will be supernatural, which blunts the tension from the idea that maybe the villagers are acting strange because they suspect that the couple are running a con on them.  And since the movie has the woman thinking that and wanting to leave because of it, it would have been far better to let us feel that along with her for longer than it did.

What I would have done is make that the focus for longer, and drop the car stalling angle.  Early in the movie, drive the tension by having the villagers act strangely towards her, in a way that was overly solicitous, with questions that had hidden meanings and could be them trying to catch them in a lie but could also be them assessing her fitness for the role she had to play.  Then slowly build the supernatural influences in and raise the question of whether they were suspecting the couple or setting them up.  And then finally reveal what it was all about so that we figure it out at the same time as she does, setting up for the final ritual.

This is also a movie where the villains, seemingly, win.  What they wanted to do was perform a ritual where they sacrifice a newborn to some kind of demon presumably in order to gain their youth back, for a form of immortality.  The ritual can be performed once every fifty years, I think, and the last one failed because it seems like the woman they brought in to bear the child died during impregnation, and her husband stayed behind and is the old man.  Here, things go better, and while we see another cross with the woman’s name on it, two of the villagers are taking the child for a walk while the husband, locked in the inn, watches.  While we don’t see it, we can presume that they will be able to sacrifice this child and will get their deal and youth back.

But again there are elements here that are nonsensical.  For example, why did they even keep the husband alive?  For the first one, the implication is that he somehow kept them at bay to stay after losing everything, but there is no reason to think that this guy could do that and no reason for them to keep him alive.  Yes, one of the villagers seemed to want to have sex with him but that’s not much of a reason to keep him alive, and so in the movie only seems to be there to create a mirror to what happened before, but since this time the ritual will be successful we know that things will change anyway.  Additionally, it isn’t really clear what the villagers get from the ritual, so to have a proper “evil wins” ending since they did a time jump anyway they should have simply jumped to after it so that we can see what they gained.  Otherwise, ending it with the comment about the impregnation while the woman screams while being raped would have been more dramatic and we could have imagined what they got out of it and what happened.  Really, it’s only if the impregnation failed that showing her grave would have enough meaning to be added here.

It’s been a bit since I watched it, and I found it actually pretty difficult to remember what happened in it or what my reaction to it was.  Given the tension, it would seem to be a better than average movie but then again the lack of any real interesting plot leaves me only with a memory that I didn’t care for it much, especially when it is compared in my mind to movies that I definitely liked better.  So while I think it has some elements that work I think that, for me, the lack of a plot means that this is going to go in my box to sell at some point if I get a chance.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “The Village in the Woods””

  1. Thoughts on Why I Like the Silent Hill Movies | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] where there’s really nothing else to do but wonder about that.  This is also an issue with some modern movies, but they do a worse job of it than “The Thing” did.  Part of my annoyance with that […]

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