There is something not quite right about this horror thriller, starring Joaquin Phoenix (pictured), Bryce Dallas Howard, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt. From the beginning - possibly because the production feels a little over-staged and trying too hard to give period detail - you sense that all is not quite as it seems. Nevertheless it's an intriguing plot with a surprise punch.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, released in 2004, and with a haunting Oscar-nominated score by James Newton Howard, the film is set in Covington, ostensibly a 19th-century Pennsylvania village that's cut off from the rest of the world. The villagers are forbidden from entering the surrounding woods because mystical creatures live there. The village elders have agreed a pact with the creatures; the villagers won't enter the woods, and the creatures won't enter the village.
That pact is at breaking point. Skinned animals have been left around the place, and the creatures have been sighted, roaming the village. Things seem to have come to a head because Lucius Hunt, an inquisitive, rather solemn young man (Phoenix) has dared to stray into the woods in search of the nearest town. His mother (Weaver) wants Lucius to stay home, as does a young blind woman Ivy Walker (Dallas Howard), who has fallen in love with him. Nevertheless Lucius insists on exploring, with inevitable consequences...
While it never totally delivers, there are moments of suspense and high drama here. Phoenix mumbles a lot, Dallas Howard comes out of it well, Weaver coasts and Hurt (playing town leader Edward Walker) has all the answers. You'll probably see the twist coming a mile off, but it's still good.