The Village / The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan M. Night Shyamalan / Directed by Nathaniel Khan

Still trying to milk the gimmick thing for all he can, director M. Night Shyamalan offers up the ultimate insult with the saw-it-coming-from-a-mile-away twist in his sixth film. The film is set in an idyllic isolated community far away from the influence of urban life in 1897 where the residents are terrorised by mysterious beasts that live in the woods surrounding them. For the first long and trying hour of the film we're not sure who the beasts are or what they want. All we know is that an attempt by one of the village's young men, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), to leave has angered the forest dwellers. Set against the brewing tension is a love story between Lucius and Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), a young blind girl who sees the withdrawn Lucius for who he really is. But more truths about the village are revealed when Lucius is seriously injured and the innocent Ivy is entrusted to venture into town to get him medicine. Shyamalan's apparent need to throw a "gotcha" in the face of his audience seems to be the sole driving force behind The Village. Everything is a build up not to a logical conclusion but to a gimmick; a means to an end. As a result, the preceding 90 minutes feel drawn out. The disc's extras, consisting of a short "making of," a few deleted scenes and one of Shyamalan's old home movies (but no commentary!) do nothing to help the film's cause. Far more entertaining is the mockumentary The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan, in which director Khan, assigned to do an on-location feature for the Sci-Fi Channel during the making of The Village, stumbles upon some interesting and supposedly true facts about the notoriously reclusive filmmaker: namely that he is "connected" to the other side. Revealed to be a hoax two days before it aired on American cable last summer, it's a cross between Spinal Tap and The Blair Witch Project. The first half is actually pretty convincing but gets a little fishy when some of the supernatural connections are revealed. But it's easily better than Shyamalan's last two films. (Buena Vista)