Even before the release of The Village on Prime Video, it garnered enough attention, considering it was the first time a graphic novel was adapted into a web series in India. The conversion from a realm of stationary images and text to moving stills held a lot of promise, especially for the connoisseurs of watching gore and violence. However, The Village ends up disappointingly brandishing its pulpy storytelling and cheap thrills that barely compensate for fleshy story arcs and a coherent screenplay.
After watching The Village, even if one is not an avid graphic novel reader, one can still draw comparisons to a number of established works so far. It feels like a mix of Goosebumps sort of horror, while also drawing a strange comparison to creature features like Species, and a variety of Tamil films like Citizen and Miruthan. But sadly, even as all these comparing elements fit into The Village, the melting pot becomes fizzled with a diluted and all-over-the-place narrative. The intellectual heavy lifting of the series is superficial despite concepts like cannibalism, paedophilia, occultism, incest, and science fiction being explored. They actually end up being superficial segments or just random one-liners, and it almost feels like a crime to bring in them for mere shock value and a plot-pushing device.
The Village is all about the coastal village of Kattiyil that once seemed to thrive on its ill-gotten good fortune. We see the evilness of mankind thriving in the throes of greed. We see a feudal system become something even more sinister when a form of scientific development happens in that village. In the present timeline, Kattiyil is a godforsaken place haunted by ghoul-like creatures. And, this is where we are acquainted with the protagonist Gautham (Arya), who inadvertently leaves his wife Neha (Divya Pillai) and daughter Maya in their broken-down car in Kattiyil. If you think the ghouls are the ruthless creatures in The Village, wait to see how the makers treat Arya's character. He is far from being the protagonist and is relegated to being an inconsequential sidekick in the narrative.
The Village has disturbing visuals of sexual harassment, especially a cruel episode highlighting the plight of women, who are forced into an abyss due to their begetting nature. While it is a solid arc, it feels more like a last resort to move the story forward. The series also touches upon the unholy nexus between chemical pollution, and environmental degradation. But again, these portions give a sense of 'been there, seen that', and it isn't executed with enough sensitivity and finesse.
The Village also falters on certain production values, and on the performance front too. While the makers use the liberty of lack of overt censorship to dial up the profanity, they miss out on going all guns blazing to showcase gore and violence. Even as there are shots of ripping of body parts, and violent acts, The Village misses the knack to use portrayal of violence to its tasteful fullest. But to give credit where it is due, the makers understand their audience and manage to fix a crisp runtime for each of its six episodes.
The Village invites us with its potential plot of interesting threads and wants to engage us with its genre-bending narrative. However, it somehow fails in its mission because it isn't orchestrated in a skillful manner. There is a cliffhanger sort of ending, prompting a sequel. But do we need it at all is a question for another day.
Just like how too many cooks spoil the broth, this series is an example of how putting a range of pertinent topics on the plate without enough servings of each leaves the audience high and dry and straps you to the confines of the horror of the undefining agenda of storytelling.
Cast: Arya, Divya Pillai, Aadukalam Naren, Thalaivasal Vijay, John Kokken, and others
Creator: Milind Rau
Streamer: Prime Video
(The story originally appeared on Cinema Express)