Can you say allegory? Well, don't bother, because M. Night Shyamalan's new film, struggling to find allegorical meaning somewhere in its interminable two hours, can't even rise to the level of a Sunday school pageant. This nonsensical creation is the story of an isolated village whose inhabitants' dress and archaic locutions and their lack of things like electricity place them somewhere in the late 19th century. Their little enclave is surrounded by frightening woods that contain, well, creatures "that must not be spoken of." There's an uneasy peace between the two, with a watchtower and a string of lanterns marking the boundary. Except that now the creatures who, etc., seem to be mounting an attack on the villagers. They paint red slashes (a color that also must not be spoken of, or something) on people's doors, they kill and skin the village's poor lambs, they wear bright red hooded capes and have claws, and in general are a threat to the peace and order we are encouraged to see in the life of the village.
Leading the group of village elders is Mr. Draggy-voice himself, William Hurt, aided by such unfortunate (to be in this mess) actors as Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson and Cherry Jones. The young generation has Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius, a brave young man who does not speak unless really provoked, Adrien Brody as Noah, the village idiot, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, blind but able to see some kind of field of light that people give off. Everyone speaks in hushed, respectful voices except the village idiot, Brody, who plays with his hands and talks unintelligibly, and is often put into the 'time out' room when he does something bad.
Lucius and Ivy somehow manage to pledge their troth in spite of all the goings-on, but that leads to the resolution which, since I'm a card-carrying critic I'm not allowed to tell you and wouldn't anyway out of self-respect, is so laughably stupid you wouldn't believe it if I did.
Shyamalan has written and directed four commercially released films. They are, in order: "The Sixth Sense," which I think is a magnificently realized ghost story; "Unbreakable," a step down in both logic and interest; "Signs," which if I didn't know better I would have taken as a parody instead of its intended, deadly serious supernatural story; and now this unholy mess. It's time for him to regroup, or else find another line of work.