It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Saving Shiloh" is the third and final "Shiloh" film, and fully as worthy as the others. It's a family film that deals with real problems and teaches real values, and yet is exciting and entertaining. We come to really care about the young boy Marty, his family and friends, and the ominous presence of their neighbor, Judd. Marty, now played by Jason Dolley, has grown up during the series and does some wise thinking in this film.
All three films are based on much-loved novels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and the tension in all three centers on the neighbor Judd (Scott Wilson), who has a drinking problem, gets in fights, wrecks his car, and as before, seems to have no occupation except for shooting squirrels in the trees around his cabin. Wilson plays the character full-bore, not as a villain in a family film but as a complex and wounded person, earnestly trying to change.
Marty believes in him. Marty's father, Ray (Gerald McRaney), has known Judd most of his life, and disliked him until recently. His change of heart came in the first film, after Marty rescued the abused dog Shiloh from Judd, made him his own, and in the process broke into Judd's isolation for the first time. By this third film, Marty has won Judd's confidence to such a degree that the man shares a painful memory of his own father: "Sometimes he beat me when he was sad. Sometimes he beat me when he was happy. Sometimes he was just happy to beat me."
Judd becomes the suspect when a local man disappears after the two men get in a bar fight. Judd is suspected again in a series of thefts. Marty believes in him, and his dad backs him up: Judd is a troubled man, but not a thief and certainly not a killer. Local gossip is quick to blame Judd for everything that goes wrong, but Marty's teacher focuses on the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty, and Marty puts that into practice. Judd still keeps his dogs chained, but Marty finds from the local vet that chained dogs are unhappy and mean, and tells Judd he and his dad will help fence in his yard. In this and other ways, Marty stands true.