Hollywood is full of sideshow barkers, enticing audiences with hints of thrills behind the curtain. But M. Night Shyamalan, the 34-year-old director of ''The Sixth Sense,'' ''Unbreakable,'' and ''Signs,'' has no equal when it comes to the art of the tease.
His next film, ''The Village,'' opens July 30, and aside from his name above the title and some cryptic posters and spooky trailers, audiences have been told precious little about it. The air of secrecy around the film has been, depending on your viewpoint, either tantalizing or irritating, Masonic or Scooby-Doo-ish. What can be revealed without spoiling anything is...um, it was shot on celluloid. Want more? Okay, it's the story of a group of people living in an isolated 19th-century village who are terrorized by mysterious creatures stalking the woods around them. More? It stars Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, and in a showcase role, newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron Howard. There's a love triangle (involving Phoenix, Brody, and Howard), loads of creepy imagery (slashes of blood on doors, skinned animals), and some cool Druid-style robes that look like they were modeled off a Led Zeppelin album. And yes, Virginia, there is a big fat twist -- maybe even more than one.