The Village Review: This Sci-Fi Horror Is Gutsy, Imaginative and At Times, Wonky

Amazon Prime Video’s delightfully gory series, based on a graphic novel, hardly runs out of imagination and political relevance. But what it does run out of is tension
The Village Review: This Sci-Fi Horror Is Gutsy, Imaginative and At Times, Wonky

Director: Milind Rau

Writers: Deepthi Govindarajan, Milind Rau, Deeraj Vaidy

Cast: Arya, Divya Pillai, Aadukalam Naren, George Maryan

Duration: 255 minutes, 6 episodes

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Milind Rau’s ease with splatter horror is established in the opening sequence of Prime Video’s The Village. Blood is spilled and body counts keep spiralling when an untoward incident rocks the life of a family hurrying on the isolated roads of Thoothukudi in the dead of the night. But the director does this with an imagination so incandescent that more than the actual deaths, we’re intrigued by how creatively these deaths are written — something we’re only used to seeing in international Zombie outbreak films. As lovers of fictional gore know, there is beauty to be found in recreational fear, and Rau finds this in The Village

It also helps that the show is based on a graphic novel (of the same name), written by Shamik Dasgupta, because the worldbuilding in The Village is exquisite. We don’t just see a mutant monster lunge to kill a person, but also see them pick apart the corpse to feed his brothers. Preethisheel Singh D’Souza’s makeup artistry and Rembon Balraj’s production design are phenomenal in a show that deals so often with bloody mutated creatures and abandoned villages with Demogorgon-like trees, a premise that could’ve easily become tacky. But the technical team ensures we glue our eyes on the screen with every slime and splatter of blood.

There’s also enough originality in the comic’s base material to keep us engaged, even if it begins with an unsurprising beginning— a family of four (played by Arya, Divya Pillai, Baby Aazhiya and a cute beagle) gets lost in the isolated forest roads of the spooky Kattiyal village, while on a road trip. Arya plays Gautham, an exhausted city doctor who gets some help from good-hearted village men Sakthi (Aadukalam Naren), Karunagam (Muthukumar) and Peter (George Maryan), who brief him on Kattiyal’s horrors — both literal and metaphorical. Kattiyal’s blood-soaked history involves a painful story of caste-based land-grabbing and discrimination. Rau and the graphic novel’s ingenious use of gothic horror to speak about religious fanaticism is an interesting touch that provides a few arresting images. The series keeps challenging our notions of goddesses and rituals, by posing uncomfortable questions — the peak of which culminates in episode 5, leaving you stirred. 

A still from The Village
A still from The Village

Rau draws parallels between the superstitious practices of the village and the power-hungry patrons of science. In many ways, The Village is also about fathers and a slow untethering from their children. One father doesn’t mind moving heaven and earth to make his immobile son walk, one is staggered by his communist son’s independence, and three other dads are desperate to find peace for their daughters. The Village doesn’t do justice to all of these stories. A premise revolving around a scientist in Singapore is frustratingly given a lot of screentime, in the place of which we would’ve liked to see the story behind John Kokken’s inscrutable mercenary. Aadukalam Naren and Muthukumar’s scenes are a surprising highlight that offers a rare glimpse into the workings of a senior friendship.

Even if The Village provides us with some of the most unsettling, gut-churning scenes, not every shot is able to hold the tension that the mise-en-scène is able to. It also doesn’t help that the dialogue isn’t too effective. When monsters are offended by hackneyed sexist lines like “Nee oru appavuku porandhavana irundha (If you aren’t a bastard),” it chips away at any fear the series managed to manufacture. It’s hard to ignore that the women aren’t given much to do in a show, and when they are, they feature in jokes that could’ve been avoided. This leaves much to be desired in a possible second season, but for now, the high-tech gore gets the job done. 

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