If there's one thing I've learned – along with most adults – it's that you flat out can't run away from your problems. You can't erase the past by reconstructing your life and attempting to manufacture a better future. You know... like confessing your sins, saying a prayer, and giving your life to an imaginary deity. Well, the people in this movie gave their lives to an imaginary sense of security and influenced other people in a way that seems very, very familiar. The bottom line is that no matter what we do, life happens, and it doesn't matter what you do to dodge the less appealing bits. I'm Spider...
...and this time around we're looking at a movie that is one part entertaining, one part infuriating, and three parts encapsulation of the true definition of selfishness and deceit. I'm talking about M Night Shyamalan's The Village and if you haven't seen it, just be advised, we're gonna spoil the shit out of it over the course of this episode.
19 pages of notes, folks. This is a new record. And I know this is going to take time to pore over so my first thought was to just scrap CBB again, but... BUT.... I could not ignore this. It's too magnificent to not mention so here's Shelle with a quick followup on Greg Locke's little witch hunt a couple weeks back...
So lets jump right in and immerse ourselves in this late19th-century manufactured utopia set in Covington Township, PA. I can't help but realize we used to travel way close to where this movie takes place enroute to Valley Farce back in the day. The movie opens with this ominous music and a POV that looks as though we're looking out at something through the trees in a wood. And those woods are made to look very scary from the moment the credits roll.
Very tense music, foreboding, threatening...
(I feel like I'm about to watch The Witch again... that kind of tense anticipation like you're at the top of the first hill on the rollercoaster)
And now, someone is being buried. By the look of the people, this is sometime in the past. And they all seem to be very close-knit. Not really a village, but more of a commune.
So now we see a gravestone – a brand new gravestone – with the birth and death dates of the person being buried. Yep, 1897. The man in the previous scene was August Nicholson and he was burying his 6 year old son, Daniel.
And now someone who we will learn later is Edward Walker and one of the top boys 'round here is giving a very secular eulogy. We don't hear much of it but it is very god-free.
“We may question ourselves, at moments such as these. Did we make the right decision to
So there's a little bit of a hint: these people made the conscious decision to all live together this way. At least the adults did.
And now the entire community is gathered for the funeral feast. Yeah, this is either a commune or a very, very close-knit community like the Amish or the Shakers but there are distinct differences between those groups and this one. I also thought Mennonites for a hot minute but nope. This is not a religious community. I don't think we ever see a church, just a common meetinghouse that probably has multiple functions.
Edward Walker says, by way of grace, “We are grateful for the time we have been given.” That's it. No “thank you, Lord,” or anything.
Suddenly, there's a noise coming from the woods. Everyone hears it. One young man who appears to have an intellectual disability laughs. He thinks it's a hoot. We will learn later that this is Noah Percy.
And now we see a lot of the things that we part of this period unfold...
Young girls cleaning dishes outdoors...
Herding sheep (these people eat a lot of lamb... never saw a single cow or pig... there are apparently chickens, but they really don't get much into the agricultural practices of this community.
There's a greenhouse so we know they produce a lot of veggies
Two teenaged girls are sweeping the porch of their house when one of them spots something that gives her a start... It's a sprig of red berries growing out of the ground. The girls pull it up and promptly BURY IT.
At the edge of the property (this is very clearly a commune now), is a watchtower where the men of the community seem to take turns staring into the woods. What they're watching for remains to be seen at the moment...
The watchers all wear thick yellow cloaks. There is a bell in the tower, which can be rung as a warning. There are yellow pennants and burning torches that stretch across the edge of the forest. And there's an odd moaning sound that seems to be coming out of the woods.
Now it's early morning... In the reflection of a stream we see a murky red figure that goes lumbering by. Then we jump to a bunch of school children gathered around something. Apparently Edward Walker is also the teacher in the village. He asks the children in a very victorian English sort of way what has caught their attention... and it looks to be a skinned, dead dog, or maybe a fox. “Something did this and it's a warning” is the message M. Night is making clear here.
Walker asks, “who came upon this?” But no one seems to want to admit finding it or knows where it came from.
Now into the classroom to discuss what happened to the animal.
One of the girls responds: “Those we don't speak of killed it.” Walker enthusiastically agrees. There has been some indoctrination going on here. Heh... some?
He is indoctrinating the SHIT out of these kids.
Edward: There it is. Why would such a notion come into your mind?
Boy: They're meat-eaters.
Girl: They have large claws.
Edward: Children... Those We Don't Speak Of, have not breached our borders in many years. We do NOT go into THEIR woods, they do NOT come into OUR valley. It is a truce. We do not threaten them. Why would they do this?
The answer is just left hanging...
And now we get to have a look in at a meeting. This is the village's Council of Elders. There is a core group that makes all the decisions in the village.
Vivian Percy is the one speaking when the scene opens. She is Noah's mother. With her is her husband, Robert, August Nicholson, Victor (we're never told his last name), Edward and Tabitha Walker, Alice Hunt, and Mrs. Clack (we're never told this one's FIRST name). There are also three other men, and one other woman.
Vivian is advocating for some kind of ritual or festival called The Flight of the Birds. “We didn't have it last year, and I, for one, missed it desperately. And I know your wife missed the children, dressed in feathers and such...”
Sounds very pagany but, again, these people don't seem to have much of a religion outside the belief in TWDNSO.
As riveting as this discussion is, it's about to get even more interesting...
At that point, someone breaks into the meeting
And this is how M. Night describes him in the script:
The young man is Lucius Hunt, only son of the widow Alice Hunt. She jumps a bit when she sees him, but smiles. He wears denim work-pants, a gray shirt, and a brown jacket. His hair is a bit curly, but short, and there is a scar on his lip. He is clearly nervous and sways from one foot to the other. He holds a note, which he reads aloud.
Luscius proceeds to read a prepared statement. He wants to cross the woods and go into “the towns” to get medicine and supplies.
“My mother is unaware of the reason for my visit today. She did not give her consent, or consult me in any form. The passing of little Daniel Nicholson, from illness, and other events, have weighed on my thoughts. I ask permission to cross into the forbidden woods and travel to the nearest town. I will gather medicines, and I will return. With regards to Those We Don't Speak Of, I am certain they will let me pass. Creatures can sense emotion and fear. They will see I am pure of intention, and not afraid. The end.”
Later on, Alice and L are back home.
She asks L, “What goes on in that head of yours?” Obviously she doesn't want him to do any such thing.
The only thing he offers in response is that Finton Coin is in the tower and that he has promised to sit with him during his watch. Yep. There are actually two watchtowers and they exist to keep tabs on TWDNSO.
While in the tower L asks Finton if he ever thinks of “the towns.” This is the only descriptor we get of anything in the outside world.
Finton responds: “The towns? What for? They're wicked places where wicked people live. That's all.”
More of that there indoctrination... anything outside their cloister is evil and dangerous.
Finton thanks L. and sys he hopes no one saw him. Not sure why that matters. He already told his mother...
Another dead animal. The script says these are foxes so... OK.
Alice Hunt is addressing all the women in the town about the mutilations. She offers two possible scenarios and really tries to play one over the other (a mad animal or coyote that only skins its prey or TWDNSO – which do you think they're leaning toward?). Alice goes into a lengthy exposition about why it is likely a coyote and to be watchful.
“We do not believe our boundary has been breached. Those We Don't Speak Of are much... LARGER creatures than coyotes. And we would know, if they had been here.”
Now Kitty Walker is talking to her father and has announced that she is in love and wants permission to marry... not that the object of her affection has even asked her or anything...
She is in love with L. She loves him because he is different from the other men in the village. “He doesn't joke or bounce about...”
Edward tells her that there is a “proper manner” in which these things are supposed to happen, like IDK... the boy being there, asking for her hand, etc.
Welp... not only is he not there, he also hasn't asked her to marry him. Not even remotely.
Edward reservedly gives her his blessing.
Edward tells her NOT to tell anyone else of her “burstings” until she has spoken with L.
Ok, let's seal the deal!
Kitty goes to see L and just comes out with it. ... and oh my god does she start to gush!
I love you, Lucius. I love you like the day is long! I love you more than the sun and the moon together! And if you feel the same way, then we should not hide it any longer....”
Welp, L wasn't hiding anything. He stares at her like he can't figure her out.
And of course we cut IMMEDIATELY to an incredibly distraught Kitty. This is why you don't go all in with the emotions. Her sister Ivy comforts her while the parental units look on from a safe distance.
No we find out what older boys in the village do for fun. They tempt TWDNSO. They're out standing on a tree stump basically waiting to be pounced.
Meanwhile, L has brought August some firewood and a muted conversation takes place. And I found this part interesting: “You may run from sorrow, as we have. Sorrow will find you. It can smell you....”
Another little hint. So far we know:
1. These people decided to live together in this place
2. They've run or are running from something
August turns his attention to a locked box under his staircase and quickly nods off. Insomnia managed.
Back to the idiots in the woods... they've given themselves a good spook and bolted home. Literally nothing happened.
Sometimes these people hear strange noises. M Night suggests that these sounds are things like a weed whacker, etc. I thought I heard a car off in the distance.
Next day, some of the boys roughhousing and Noah is one of the instigators.
Ivy admonishes them.... Well, she admonishes Noah. This is about where it becomes obvious that she's blind.
Noah apparently doesn't know when to call it quits with the roughhousing and aggressiveness so he and Ivy strike a deal. Noah has to promise never to strike another person again. “No hitting.”
She challenges Noah to a footrace to a place they call Resting Rock. L is there and Ivy just sort of knows he's there and has a very existential way of explaining it.
Some people - just a handful, mind you - give off the tiniest color. It's faint, like a haze. It's the only
thing I ever see in the darkness. Papa has it, too.
L tells her she runs like a boy.
She tells L that he made her sister cry.
Noah hears a sound and bolts after it like a dog.
Now Ivy and L are alone and she gets very candid.
“I know why you deny my sister. When I was younger... You used to hold my arm when I walked. Then suddenly you stopped. One day, I even tripped in your presence, and almost fell. I was faking, of course. But still, you did not hold me. Sometimes we don't do things we want to do, so that others won't know we want to do them.”
Noah is back and hands Ivy some berries as a gag. They're red. He informs Ivy that she is holding The Bad Color. They attract TWDNSO. Ivy says they need to bury it. L points out that those things don't grow inside the village. The implication is that Noah found them... someplace else and L immediately puts two and two together.
Next scene, L is addressing the elders again to rat on Noah and make another appeal.
“It is my belief that Noah Percy has entered the woods, and has done so on many occasions. It is
also my belief that, because of his innocence, those creatures who reside in the woods did not harm him. This strengthens my feeling that they will let me pass if they sense I am not a threat.”
Now mom is trying to put a lil fear in her boy. We find out something heinous about her life and are given a small snippet of the reason why the Village exists.
“Your father left for the market on a Tuesday, at a quarter past nine in the morning. He was found, robbed and naked, in the filthy river, two days later.”
Now we know why there's no Mr. Hunt...
This also will NOT be the only one of these kinds of stories we hear over the course of the movie.
Lucius asks, “Why do you tell me this blackness?”
Alice says it's because she fears for his life.
Lucius counters with, “I am not the one with secrets.”
Alice asks him to clarify.
L directs her attention to... yep. Another black box.
“There are secrets of every corner of this village. Do you not feel it? Do you not see it?”
Alice explains why she has the box: “That is for my own well-being, so the evil things from my past are kept close and not forgotten. Forgetting would be to let them be born again in another form.” Right, because holding onto things like that always hold their effects on us at bay, right?
Lucius suggests opening the box, Alice balks. She says they should speak to Edward about the whole going into the woods business.
Lucius says, “He hides, too. He hides his feelings for you.”
That's left hanging for a minute but they come back to it...
Alice: What makes you think he has feelings for me?
Lucius (whispering): He never touches you.
OK, so red is the bad color but ugly mustard yellow is somehow... safe? They can't see you? They can't touch you? What?
Uh oh, L is in the woods...
Into the woods he had to go
Into the woods to show his mettle
Into the woods and just like that, the bad color's before him!
Oh, and let's add a little defiance. He grabs a sprig of red berries and just walks around with it.
L comes back and makes a B-line for Ivy.
Ivy recognizes him by his “color” tells him she is playing a game with Noah. They're playing hide and seek.
L walks Ivy to her front porch.
Ivy tells him she needs to go help her sister watch the children, but then doubles back.
She tells L that she's heard her parents talking about him and that she thinks his plan s noble but not right.
Lucius changes the subject quickly. “Are you not angry you have no sight?”
I like the answer she gives: “I see the world, Lucius Hunt. Just not as you see it.”
L appeals to her soft spot for Noah and speculates that there could be medicines in the towns that would help cure Noah and make him able to learn.
Ivy politely asks to change the subject again. Of course, the suggestion there was, “what if they have stuff that'll give you back your sight?” The thing is, Ivy isn't selfish like that. She would never ask anyone to put themselves in jeopardy just so she could see.
L is trying to convince her... “what if...”
Ivy changes the subject again. Kitty has found love. Again. With Cristop Crane. This guy is weird. Has this odd paranoia about wrinkles in his shirts.
And with the news of Kitty's impending nuptials on the table, Ivy pretty much throws herself at L. “I can receive interest from anyone... who might have interest.”
They go back inside. Noah is hiding in the closet but of course Ivy doesn't notice him. He thinks this is a hoot. She grabs a blanket and closes the door.
Now it's later that night. Back in the tower and a lantern appears to be behaving strangely...
Finton is on watch again. He thinks it's L rattling the tower and even calls out to him... nope. It' one of THEM!!!
The bell tolls, the villagers scatter. Everyone is taking cover like a tornado is coming through
Noah is being noah... Kitty keeps telling him to come in and he is acting like this is a big party.
Windows and doors are being barred and locked, L is doing everything he can to secure the house.
Then we see one... kinda half porcupine, half skeksi... or creepy Mystic. I can't decide which. But these things would have fit in well in the world of the Dark Crystal...
Ivy wants to wait for L, Kitty begs her “Don't let them in.”
Ivy is determined to wait for L. She is convinced that he is coming to make sure she's safe. And he does, but it's a close call. This is a tense moment. TWDNSO are in the village and one of them has been clawing at the house. It turns the corner and Ivy is standing there with her hand outstretched. It's about to reach out and grab her when... L finally shows up, they dash inside and hide in a victorian era safe room underneath the floorboards.
That's all we get to see. Apparently it was basically a non-event, though, because it's morning and everyone appears to still be there. But the creatures have left a message (or, a warning, as Edward puts it). We hear him addressing the people as we see a brief montage of slashes on the doors of every building in the village.
We jump to the elders addressing the town and at this point I'm thinking, “damn, these people have a lot of meetings. I don't see them tending to livestock or doing chores anywhere near as much as see them having meetings.” I bet they have meetings to plan meetings. So anyway, it's pretty elders all in a row and bewildered villagers who are trying to suss out what happened.
August points out that the creatures have never attacked without reason and asks the group if anyone has any idea why this happened.
Well, here comes the reason...
L confesses by proxy. Vivian Percy reads his very, very, very overwrought mea culpa statement.
Now all eyes are on L who has basically put himself in the corner. He's in the back of the room waiting for retribution to fall, but what happens next surprised me (well, it did the first time I saw it).
Edward looks down on L with compassion. He says, “Do not fret...you are fearless in a way I will never know.”
Oh! time for a wedding. Kitty gonna do some scratchin' tonight – but she'd better not rip off Christop's shirt...
At this point in the script M. Night tells us that there are “at least 95 people who live in the village, maybe more, and they've all shown up for the wedding. The reception after is kinda epic. Looked like a lot of fun.
And now it's time to make an offering to TWDNSO and it's also epically pagan. Two young men in those yellow robes (the safe color) literally carry their offering on a litter and toss it on a rock (altar, anyone?). It's a whole, fully-cleaned side of lamb. Lots of food wasted.
Back to the party, Ivy and Mrs. Clack are talking and we get another story about the evils of the outside world...
Mrs. Clack says Kitty reminds her of her sister. Ivy asks the sister's name. Mrs. Clack does not respond. What she does instead is explain why the sister isn't part of the community:
My sister did not live past her twenty-third birthday. A group of men took her life in an alley by our
...and with that, back to the happy nuptials! And poor Percy is all paranoid about people hugging him and “squeezing his shirt.” This is a thing with him.
A lil sexual tension between Alice and Edward... she congratulates him on his daughter's wedding and extends her hand. He doesn't take it. A moment later se sees him holding Mrs. Percy's hand.
“He never touches you...”
a little wedding dance action... and a scream! Two of the children are screaming for Mr. Walker.
My the mood changed quickly...
“They're in the village. They left more warnings.”
They travel in a big pack back to the village proper
Lots of dead, skinned animals, probably the rest of the lambs, more foxes, probably some chickens...
Then Alice and Edward discuss the marks on the door – coyotes can't reach that high
It's quiet now and L is outside. Ivy is trying to sleep but of course, she feels him and goes out after him.
Ivy tells him that The elders are going to have an inquiry th next day and that each member of the village is to be questioned in the meeting hall. They think they're going to get to the bottom of how the border was breached. Honestly, I fully expected this to turn into a Salem witch trials situation at this point and have the entire village at each-other's throats but M. Night had a different idea.
Ivy asks L, “Why are you on this porch?”
L says that it isn't safe.
Ivy points out that he could be sitting on any porch in the village and yet here he is, at hers. She asks L if he thinks she's too much of a tomboy. She says she likes doing tomboy things and describes the game the boys play at the stump. Apparently, L holds the record and that record isn't about to be broken anytime soon.
Ivy asks L how he is so brave when everyone else is shaking in their boots. I like his answer. He says:
“I do not worry about what will happen, only what needs to be done.”
He wants to know how she knew he was even there and she says she saw him out the window. That whole enigmatic “I can see your color” thing. They never get around to telling us what his color is and Ivy puts the subject to bed and tells us (by way of conversation with L) that she's not going to tell.
And now for my favorite conversation in this whole thing...
Ivy asks L: “When we are married, will you dance with me? I find dancing very agreeable.”
So she kind of pulls a Kitty here, being a little presumptuous but SHE has reason to think this little hail Mary is safe. I mean... it's obvious that there are feels here but the way this decision is made really encapsulates who L is. He's surprised by the question but only to the extent that this is supposed to be his job...
And this exchange is what seals the deal. I've never seen a couple argue their way into a betrothal but here we are...
Ivy asks: “Why can you not say what is in your head?”
Lucius returns volley with: “Why can you not stop saying what is in yours? Why must you lead, when I want to lead? If I want to dance, I will ask you to dance. If I want to speak, I will open my mouth and speak. Everyone is forever plaguing me to speak further. Why?”
And I think anyone who has ever been in love can relate to this part of it. And I remember distictly saying things like this while Shelle and I drove around in that blizzard at the tail end of 1989...
What good is it to tell you you are in my every thought from the time I wake? What good can come from my saying I sometimes cannot think clearly, or- or do my work properly?
He continues by telling her that the only thing he actually fears is that some harm might come to Ivy, and then, just like that...
“And yes... I will dance with you on our wedding night.”
And... boom! They're engaged!
So L and Ivy are getting married. It's out there!
And Kitty is holding it together but she still feels a tinge of jealousy. She handles it well, I will give her that. She's married and, honestly, it seems like that's what she wanted. She wasn't picky about the who, she just wanted the what. Gotta wonder what life looked like between Kitty and Shirt a few years down the line...
Well, it's no secret that Noah had specific thoughts concerning Ivy, too. I mean, she's beautiful and she showed him all kinds of attention, but instead of Kitty going ballistic, it's Noah whose jealousy is about to deliver one of those crazy twists that M. Night was great at delivering...
But before we see how Noah deals with his jealousy, we see Alice basically interrogating one of the women in the village about livestock. All was well right before the wedding. Business as usual. This is another one with just a first name: Beatrice. And, intent on changing the subject she asks Alice if its true what she's hearing about Ivy and L. And then we get another of my favorite lines...
“It is amazing to witness which two people love chooses to unite. It follows no rules.”
My non-conventional mind says, “take the word TWO out of there and you nailed it, sweetie...”
Alice, of course, is thinking of the enigmatic sadness of the truth behind that statement. After all, there's feels there between her and Edward and it's made clear that those feels are fated to go unresolved. I'm tellin' ya, people, take out the two...
L is working in his workshop and a very distraught Noah knocks on the door. It's clear that Noah has been crying. His eyes are red and puffy and he's a mess, emotionally and physically. L figures things out quickly and attempts to explain to Noah that Ivy does, in fact love him, but that there are different kinds of love. When he turns to face Noah, though, instantly we know something is wrong. L looks stunned. He looks at Noah, Noah looks at him, and then the camera lets us in on what's happened...
Noah has stabbed L right in the gut. L falls, Noah is a bit stunned himself. He turns to leave, but then doubles back... and stabs L a few more times.
And now Noah is home and kinda needs to wash his hands. He's rocking in a chair on the Percy's porch staring out at the village. His back is turned to his parents. His mother says it's time for them to go to a meeting (I'm telling ya... it's all these people do). He turns around and... this is the definition of being caught red-handed. All he can say is “the bad color... the bad color...” It's hitting him what he's done and his parents realize it too. They just don't know who's been hurt.
Of course this meeting is another sort of tribunal where everyone is being questioned. An unknown villager bursts in and says that there's been an “accident.” Yeah, that's one way of putting it...
Ivy immediately knows.
She goes looking for L. She “knows his color” after all. And yep, her spider sense leads her right to him. She stands there in the workshop demanding, “Lucius Hunt, you answer me right this moment!”
She takes a few more steps and literally runs into him. She's too stunned to even call for help. She cradles him in her arms as several other villagers happen upon the scene.
Ivy tells her father that she cannot see his color. She has to be pried off of him so they can do what they can to help him.
Ivy thinks L is dead or good as dead and it's a popular opinion.
Noah is being held in this little cloister's version of “the brig.” They call it the Quiet Room.
Mrs. Clack tells the villagers that L has suffered greatly and that he could pass at any moment. She then tells them to to give L “all your prayers and good thoughts... he will hear them.”
I love how she's talking about L and not God. This is the only instance where the concept of prayer even comes up but Edward doesn't seem to be calling on divine intervention.
Now Ivy is gon' pay Noah a visit. She goes to the quiet room and the look on her face says it all. There's no compassion here. No pity, no love. She starts wailing on him. Slaps him silly until August drags her away. Noah lets out wails of despair as Mr. Percy again locks him in. Clearly this was not how he was going to get the girl.
Now Ivy wants to go into the woods to go to the towns so she can get medical supplies.
She asks her father to let her go and tells him that the decision is in his hands.
Victor has been charged with closing the wounds. The main concern is infection, oddly enough. Apparently Noah didn't hit any vital organs. Lucky.
Edward asks Victor if “there anything at all that can be done to mend the boy?”
Victor pauses and Edward persists. Victor says that there's a chance L will make it if they can contain the infection.
Edward is thinking of going to “the towns” himself and Tabitha knows it so she draws him away a safe distance and pins him down to it.
I know the thing that is in your head. You're thinking of going to the towns. Tell me I'm wrong. You have made an oath, Edward, as all have, never to go back.
This has come up before... back to what?
She continues: “It is a painful bargain, but no good can come without sacrifice. These are your words I'm saying.”
Looks like Edward's attempts at indoctrination are backfiring on him...
Edward tries to inject a caveat by pointing out that what has happened to L is a crime, but Tabitha throws it right back at him: “YOU made an oath.” Forget the rest of the village, she's pinning this directly on him and there's a reason why... all the elders took this “oath” but in her mind it all falls on him... and she's right. We'll find out why later.
Edward approaches Ivy who is sitting in a rocking chair. Clearly there's a lot of preventable illness and death happening here and I have to wonder if anyone thought about this before they left wherever it is they came from to live this charmed communal life here... with dead six-year-olds, murderous savage creatures and mentally disabled passion killers...
He says, “The moment I heard my daughter's vision had finally failed her, and that she would forever be blind, I was sitting in that very chair. I was so ashamed.”
Ashamed? Why? What did he have to do with it, I wonder... So many questions...
They go for a walk during which time Edward brings up the subject of Ivy's grandfather. We haven't heard mention of him as of yet.
Grandpa Walker is described as “the wealthiest man in the towns.”
Edward tells her that his father was very savvy when it came to money. “If he was given one dollar, in less than a fortnight, he would have turned it into five.” Money doesn't exist in the village because it can be a “wicked thing.” You do not know of money. It is not part of our life here. Money can be a wicked thing. It can turn men's hearts black. Good men's hearts.
He then tells her that grandpa was a good guy but a terrible judge of other people's character. He had a good sense of humor and taught Edward valuable lessons – what it means to be a leader. But with no further preamble, we get anther grisly tale from the past:
“Your grandfather, James Walker, died in his sleep. A man put a gun to his head and shot him while he dreamed.”
He then tells her that she is strong. That she is like grandpa in how she leads when others would only follow... “You see light, when there is only darkness. I trust you.”
And he's about to put that trust to the test. They come to a place that Ivy recognizes, even though she can't see it. “We are at the old shed that is not to be used.”
So we have creatures that we do not speak of, we have sheds we do not use... what other do nots exist in this place?
Edward opens the door and says something quite odd...
“Do your very best not to scream...”
Something happens here, but we're not told what... yet.
Next scene... It appears to be early in the morning. We get a shot of the bell that warned the villagers standing silent. Ivy is leaving. She's been given her father's blessings. She shoves her yellow robe and a pocket watch into a big bag and appears to be making haste. She kneels at L's bedside and tells him that she is leaving to fetch him medicines.
All the Elders are gathered outside one of the houses. Edward tells them that he has sent Ivy to the towns for medicines.
Ivy has two escorts – Finton Coin and her brother-in-law Christop. They set yellow flags and put on their yellow robes. Ivy has a look of determination on her face. She sees the task ahead and she is the first to advance. The others hold back for a moment, then follow.
Christop is particularly apprehensive. Ivy tells him that he need not be scared because they have... wait for it... wait for it...
The magic rocks.
Christop – being a bit of a coward but one with at least somewhat of a brain asks her why they've never heard of these rocks before. All she offers in response is that they will be safe. They will light torches and they will be safe.
I mean, if it's always been that simple... yeah. No. Christop is going back to safety. His shirt is depending on him. Finton stays... for now. They put up a makeshift shelter when it starts to rain. But even Finton, who is clearly more brave than most, can't shake the sense of dread that being in the woods is giving him. He tells her that she will be safe because she can't see. The creatures will take pity on her. Being the guardian of the rocks, he puts them in her hand... and then there was one.
Being the one who leads where others only follow, Ivy dismisses Finton with her blessing.
She dumps out the rocks. She knows.
NOW for the big reveal... what was it that Edward was afraid would make her scream? Well... we're about to find out.
They enter the shed. She says there's an odd smell...
Edward directs her to something in the shed. Something he “cannot explain in words.” We see Ivy's outstretched hand as the camera follows what she is about to touch... and then we see it. Tusk-like spines that rattle like bones. Coarse, matted hair... her hands peruse it and then... she understands.
THOSE WE DON'T SPEAK OF!!!
Not quite a scream, but loud. Edward immediately calms her.
“It is only farce – be not frightened”
And there are all the suits. The creatures, now that we get to see them up close, have the faces of wild boars and those tusk-like spines... Yeah, to anyone living in 1897 this would be pretty terrifying.
“There did exist rumors...” - so there IS a local legend about these creatures. Remember, Edward was a professor of History and his family was from “the towns.” So he literally took his cues from local lore when he was devising this whole thing. The creatures, the screams in the woods, the offerings... all of it an elaborate ruse. And the more she learns, the more pissed off Ivy is getting.
Just lie when you start seeing your religion for what it is...
And here is Edward's brilliant explanation.
“We didn't want anyone going into the towns. There is no one in this village who has not lost someone irreplaceable, who has not felt loss so deeply that they questioned the very merit of living at all.”
Dude... join the club. I've lost plenty. By way of death or... that deathless death of abandonment that in many ways is far worse. He's right. Everyone goes through these things. But what level of selfishness does it take to hold people captive over your inability to deal with loss?
Oh, but the man behind the curtain hasn't been completely revealed yet. Oh no...
“Forgive us our silly lies... they were not meant to harm.” - Silly lies? You mean those lies that have a hundred people trapped here? Shackled by fear of creatures ravaging them in the night? Those “silly lies?” Amazing how people downplay the gravity of their actions even when they see the consequences.
But, for now, this is all she knows. They made up the creatures. And this knowledge makes it... a little easier.
And then Ivy says something that very eloquently encapsulates precisely how I feel about anyone who finds themselves trapped in their religion: “I am sad for you, Papa. For all the elders.”
Edward asks her if she is willing to take the burden.
Yep. She is. Edward hands her the watch and a folded sheet of paper. He then lays out the plan. He has written down a supply list that they would know how to find in the towns. She will go with two escorts and follow the sound of the stream. She will come to a hidden road. The escorts will wait there while she continues. She is admonished to tell no one in the towns where they are and return with haste.
“I cannot come with you. You gave your heart to this boy. He is in need.” Ugh...
Edward first visits Alice and tells her that he's sent Ivy to the towns “It is all that I can give you.”
Now it's time to deal with the elders.
We have agreed never to go back!
Edward justifies his decision arguing that L is the victim of a crime.
Mrs. Clack retorts. “We have agreed NEVER to go back, NEVER.”
Edward: What was the purpose of our leaving? Let us not forget it was out of hope of something good and right.
Robert Percy admonishes him for keeping the elders in the dark and he responds like any other idiot who makes bad decisions and now desperately needs to justify them.
Edward: I'm guilty, Robert! I made a decision of the heart! I cannot look into another's eyes and see the same look I see in August's without justification! It is too painful, I cannot bear it!
Feeling a little guilty about all this, are we? Shunning the outside world? Not having access to help when it's needed? Letting your daughter go blind? Letting a six-year-old die when there was means to save him? Oh, it's all bearing down on him. Good.
Mrs. Clack tells him he's jeopardized everything they've made... and by all accounts they've been living like this for a while.
Edward tries to justify it by saying that if things keep unraveling their way of life will too.
Do you plan to live forever? It is in them that our future lies! It is in Ivy and Lucius that this... this way of life will continue. Yes, I have risked. I hope I am always able to risk everything for the just and right cause! If we did not make this decision, we could never again call ourselves innocent. And that, in the end, is what we have protected here! Innocence! That, I'm not ready to give up.”
Oh, but you have, Edward. And you know it.
August is resigned.
“Let her go. If it ends, it ends. We can move towards hope, it's what's beautiful about this place. We must not run from heartache...”
But... but... oh nevermind... we've already gotten snippets of how they've done just that.
Mrs. Clack asks how he could task a blind girl with this and he responds by telling her that Ivy is one of the most capable people in the village and he's right.
“She is led by love. The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe.”
Really? What world do you live in, pal? Oh, never mind again...
Ivy is alone in the woods and scared. But determined. I'll give her that. She is feeling her way with her cane. She comes up on a barrier and turns to go back but the ground around a rotting tree gives way and she falls into a VERY deep hole. She escapes because it's not time to roll the credits yet. She is terrified but she presses on.
Then we go back to the whole “There did exist rumors...” thing and this is obviously setting us up for something.
She hears a noise and starts becoming convinced that she's not alone. She just starts running headlong through the brambles. She is surrounded by “The bad color.” Sprigs of the same berries that Noah handed her earlier.
And then... the camera pans over to it. TWDNSO are in the woods. Good rumor.
She tells herself it isn't real, but, I mean, it's standing right there. This is the big blot twist. They're real! They're really really real!
The creature stares her down for a long moment then lunges at her. She evades, like... several times. But she isn't gonna shake it. That thing is coming for her and it is determined. She has an amazing sense of direction and goes back to the site of the tree. She feels the upended roots and knows where she is. She stands in front of the hole with her arms outstretched like the boys do at the stump, baiting the creature to come at her. The creature lunges, she steps out of the way, it falls in the hole.
Back at the village, Noah's parents enter the quiet room and... oops! No Noah. He's escaped. Oh, and the floorboards are upended. They were hiding one of the suits in there and he found it. So now we know what Ivy was really up against and then we see it.
We jump back to an injured Noah lying in the hole. He dies of his injuries from the fall and probably got impaled by those razor sharp tusks on the suit. Ivy holds watch until she hears silence. She doesn't know it was him, which, frankly, surprises me. He only groans. Never calls out to her or anything. She weeps for a moment then presses on.
L is holding on by a thread. “His will to live is very strong.”
Ivy finds the road out of covington woods
“Tell no one in the towns where we are...”
She is literally sprinting down this road and she comes to a huge hedge. It's as if someone doesn't want anything behind it to be seen... hrmmm....
And now we get to see what's in Edward and Tabitha's box....
And we hear more stories and get more details on a couple... stories that have a very modern feel. There are newspaper clippings in the box along with a picture with some very familiar faces. Except it's not a picture from the 1800s. Oh no... I'm guessing late 70s to early 80s. These people all lived in Philadelphia and all of them lost loved ones to murder. Alice is holding an infant Lucius in her arms and he is in his early to mid 20s now. So it's been about 20-25 years that they've been there, which works if it's actually 1997 or even 2004 (the year the movie came out).My best guess is that they were part of a support group and Edward, being very, very rich having inherited his father's estate came up with this plan: flee the outside world, live in a cloistered utopia where the evils of the world can't touch them.
How's that working out for ya, guys?
Ivy scales the wall and.... surprise! It's the present day. A ranger rolls up in a land rover with “Walker Wildlife Preserve” emblazoned on the side. He finds her and asks where she's from. She says, “the woods.”
She tells the ranger she needs a doctor and hands him the paper and the watch she is offering as payment... He is just slightly taken aback.
Ivy asks the ranger his name. He says his name is Kevin. She is also a little taken aback. “You have kindness in your voice. I did not expect that.”
Well duh.... she's spent her entire life being told that these people were bad news and the very first person she encounters is just oozing with empathy. He seems compelled to help her. He has no clue what's going on, but he's taking the situation very seriously.
He tells Ivy that there are guard shacks every ten miles around the perimeter of the preserve. They keep medical supplies there in case of things like animal bites and minor injuries. I have no doubt that Edward knew they had everything on the list. He then asks her name... heh...
Now Kevin is back at the guard shack acting nonchalant and doing a terrible job of it. His supervisor is there reading the paper. The supervisor asks what's going on with the girl, Kevin makes up a story about some lost teenagers.
M. Night only refers to this guy in the script as the man on the walkie. He has more clout than a ranger and he seems to know more than he lets on. What he says to Kevin is really interesting...
Can I give you some advice? Don't get into conversations. You start talkin', you start gettin' into how some estate is payin' all of us, and no one's allowed to go in there and disturb the animal sanctuary. People's interest gets piqued. It's a really easy gig, Kevin. Maintain and protect the border. That's it.
A few years ago, it got out in the papers that some government guys had been paid off to keep plane routes from flying over this place. That was a very stressful time for me. Don't cause me any troubles. Do not get into conversations.
I'd love to know who this guy actually is and what his relationship is to the Walkers, but this is all we get to see.
“Some estate is paying all of us...” Jesus, how much fucking money does this guy have? His father must've been insanely rich.
So, still acting nonchalant, Kevin quietly grabs a bunch of glass jars from the fridge, all antiseptics and antibiotics and makes his exit. The man on the walkie (Kevin finally calls him Jay) ignores everything and asks no more questions. He knows. He totally knows.
Another reflection in the stream. This time it's not the ominous red creature we saw in the beginning. It's Ivy making her way back in her mustard yellow robe and she seems a lot less stressed
Poor Kevin.... he has no fucking clue. All he knows is he gave some girl some antibiotics and let her back over the wall.
The truth about Noah's fate is made known – they knew what he did and that it cost him his life. Edward promises to bring back his body and give him a proper burial. I have to wonder if Ivy would eventually put two and two together but the movie is almost over.
Edward comforts the Percys by telling them “your son has made our stories real.” By all accounts, even after being told the Santa Claus level truth about the creatures, Ivy knows what she experienced, she didn't know it was Noah, and now has “proof” that the rumors are true. This does work out well for Edward, doesn't it?
The movie ends with Ivy telling L she's back. That's it. Cut directly to the credits. Does he live? Does he die? We don't know... but here's what we do know (or what we should glean from this whole thing...)
The parallels between what happens in the village and what pretty much all religions do to maintain their following is staggering. First and foremost, there's the element of fear. And to their credit, the elders in this movie went way further than idle threats about hell to keep the people in line. They devised a truly exceptional ruse and intricate ruse. Fear keeps people from entering the woods. Fear keeps them in line. And in exchange for their compliance, they get a strong sense of community, have strong bonds with their families and friends, and enjoy a life that, by all appearances, exists outside an evil, apostate society.
Next is the indoctrination of the young. Children in the village are bombarded with the lore of TWDNSO and believe it implicitly. There is no counterpoint. They are told this is true and no one even thinks to question. All they can do is be afraid.
And just like religion, the fears are baseless. The creatures can't harm them. The sounds from the woods are all manufactured, and they leave sides of lamb out for the creatures just like kids leave cookies out for Santa Claus. The way the ruse is perpetrated is basically identical.
I find it ironic that Edward still thinks that they're “protecting innocence” in the face of cold-blooded murder and in an atmosphere of lies and deceit that literally rob people of their freedom of choice. Even the Amish are given a choice. They are allowed to experience modern life and decide if the plain life is what they want to embrace. What such options are these people given? People born into the village never have the first clue what the outside world looks like. They are indoctrinated from birth to believe that happiness can only be found in this community and that the world outside their cloister is a scary, threatening place even if you manage to get past the creatures who govern the woods.
And when you look beyond the religious parallels, you learn one other important lesson here: you can run from situations, but not human nature. All the evils the elders retreated to this place to escape have followed them there. Removing themselves from society has not afforded them sanctuary from the very things they fled from. Murder, jealousy, greed, covetousness, unconscionable hubris... all the things that exist “out there” and led to the personal tragedies they've suffered have found their way in, and the larger the community grows, the bigger those problems are destined to become.
In short, you can't escape human nature by denying yourself a sense of normalcy. Coming out from among them doesn't change what we essentially are. All it does is create an environment for every aspect of human nature – both good and bad – to replicate itself in a different environment. You don't protect innocence through lies and deceit. In fact, you can't protect it at all. People, no matter what influences they have on their lives, are going to be the people they are regardless of their environments or the rules they choose to be governed by.
So let's forget about the notion of innocence and focus instead on being better humans in the space we occupy. We will all face personal tragedies at one point or another. Many of us will face more than a few. But we learn nothing by running from them. We learn by facing things like death and loss head-on. We learn by accepting that things like personal loss are part of life and that we cannot escape the inevitability of it. We learn by dealing with the grief and anger productively and proactively.
To me, it makes much more sense to learn how to deal with the things life throws our way in practical terms than it does to run from them because you think you can leave them behind you. You can't. Life follows us everywhere. The villagers did what pretty much everyone who adopts Christianity does: they traded the sorrows and pain that held their emotions captive for another seemingly more appealing brand of bondage.
The thing about bondage, it's never appealing and only gets harder to escape over time. The good news is that we can make better choices. We can embrace life and all the ups and downs that come with it. We can accept the reality of loss and embrace the imperfect nature of the world we live in. Because learning how to do that will help us navigate our way out of places of mental and emotional bondage. It will help us grow as individuals. It will help us appreciate the good things that find their way into our lives, but most of all, it will help us stop looking for escape routes from our own realities and help us get and stay unbound.