Crappy, Highly Flawed Mystery Farce
The Secret Village is about Rachel (Ali Faulkner), a journalist, and Greg (Jonathan Bennett), a wannabe script writer, who end up rooming together in an old village with a secret history. The Salem witches were apparently there, but also a poisoning outbreak called “ergot,” which we learn has sporadically popped up over the years. No one in the village will talk to Rachel about ergot (or anything else, for that matter) other than local man Paul, but after warning Rachel that it’s too dangerous for her to investigate, she witnesses him dead on a chair with hooded figures chanting around the body. Because there is nobody policing the place, she has to continue to investigate on her lonesome, with a teensie bit of help from Greg.
This is director, Swamy M. Kandan’s second outing helming a low-budgeter, and has really not grasped the concept of trying to build up tension or utilising his actors adequately. Moreover, the story jointly-written by Kandan and Villager 1, Jason B. Whittier, was extremely lame to begin with, and the dialogue was pretty bad too. I take absolutely no pleasure bombing a movie, but, having just sat through a long and tiresome 90 minutes I’m not exactly feeling any goodwill. I’m also basing my critique on the claimed budget estimation of almost $2 million, so, here goes.
To begin with, the music was blasting out way too much and also too loud; the volume-dial was cranked up to try to scare the crap out of us instead of enhancing what was on the screen. Unfortunately, what we were supposed to find frightening was nothing remotely scary to begin with, thus, failed miserably. I must say, the score by Joshua Minyard, who has some seriously great credits to his name is somewhat of a surprise (to put it mildly). Easy A and Ice Age: Continental Drift? Impressive. I’m not quite sure what went wrong here but I just wasn’t sensing anything like those brilliant movies going on with this poor attempt. Perhaps he had no creative control with this M Night Shyamalan’s The Village wannabe.
The direction was also not strong, with the likes of veteran thespian, Richard Riehle, a true workhorse of an actor, dialing in some poorly delivered, wooden lines that wouldn’t have been accepted be most directors, and a few more takes asked for, but sadly, not by Kandan. This is where the director should step in and guide the actors by offering some instruction to what they want to achieve, and how the character should act. Riehle has more experience than most actors combined but even he needs coaxing at times.
The hooded figures and other characters creeping about were almost unintentionally funny, and would have been if the film was better handled, and the director tried to pass this stinker off as a horror/comedy, but, instead more resembled a pedophile ring than creepy villagers guarding a secret. One scene that was ridiculously funny, was when Rachel was talking to Paul (Riehle) for the first time, and said creepy villager (the writer?) was sneaking around outside the house. The only thing he didn’t do was lift his hand to his forehead as if sighting a distant ship on the horizon, while trying to look around and spy surreptitiously. It really was foolish looking. I wish I could remember the name of the tune they used to play in the oldies, when someone was creeping about on their toes, lifting their knees high looking very suspicious. It would have fitted in here perfectly, and in a few other scenes during the first act.
I happen to like Ali Faulkner, who was recently in Bad Kids Go To Hell and Butcher Boys, but she didn’t stand much of a chance in The Secret Village, which was a pity. Still a joy to watch. Then we have Jonathan Bennett. Another capable actor, but, sadly, hasn’t really had a break or done anything of note. Performing in B flicks appears to be where he’s happy, and at least gets decent screen time.
I honestly do wish I had something nice to write about The Secret Village, other than the beautiful setting it was shot in, but, sadly, I don’t. If the film was made for, say, about 100 grand or something like that, I could be a lot kinder. If you can take your mystery/thrillers without mystery or thrills; if you don’t mind wooden acting; if you care not a jot about bad writing, then this one should not be missed.
Review by Ed Blackadder