Over here in the UK, we have been experiencing incredibly good weather as of late, with temperatures soaring higher than usual. As such, amongst all of the things to do right now, a trip to the cinema is probably not on the cards for many people, but for those keen to venture to the multiplex, a new horror-thriller has just landed.
The movie is Old, the latest film from writer, producer, and director, M. Night Shyamalan. The film has slipped out today, with relatively little publicity, so you will be forgiven for being unaware of its arrival.
Based on Pierre Oscar’s graphic novel, Sandcastle, Old stars Gael García Bernal, Alex Wolff, Vicky Krieps, Eliza Scanlen, and Embeth Davidtz. The film tells the story of a group of people who find themselves trapped on a beach they cannot leave, and ageing rapidly.
In the movie, a young family head off to a fancy resort for a sun-filled getaway. Upon arrival the parents drink cocktails, the children enjoy the amenities, and for the first day, it appears as if they have arrived in paradise.
The next morning, the family is approached by the resort manager, who asks them what their plans are for the day? When they make it clear they don’t have a set itinerary, the resort manager suggests the family take an excursion to a private, secluded beach, that few people know about.
The family believe this to be a wonderful idea, and along with another group they set off to the beach. But soon after they arrive at their destination, they are shocked to discover the body of a young woman floating in the sea.
The discovery causes much distress, but it is far from an isolated incident. Within moments, an elderly member of the group dies rather suddenly, and then most shocking of all, the children begin to display signs of advanced ageing.
Concerned about their safety, the group attempt to leave the beach, but no matter what they do they find themselves trapped. However, with the ageing process continuing to take hold, they realise they must find a way to escape before it is too late.
I mentioned that Old has arrived in cinemas with very little publicity, and having just returned from a screening, I can confirm that few people seem to be aware of it. In my screening there was only one other person watching the film.
Is this an indication of how good this movie is? Nope – I believe it is simply an indication of how poorly this film has been marketed.
I watch new movies all the time, and even I almost forget Old was due out this week. In fact, had I not double-checked what I was planning to watch and review this weekend, it would have passed me by.
If this film underperforms at the box office, and I expect it might, it will be due to very few people knowing of its existence, because what we have here is a pretty decent M. Night Shyamalan picture. Old is not up there with The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000) or The Visit (2015), but it is leagues ahead of say, Lady in the Water (2006), and sits quite comfortably in mid-tier level of Shyamalan’s thrillers.
When Old hits its stride (i.e. once everyone becomes trapped on the beach), it manages to maintain its momentum for a large section of the film. The whole beach sequence, which covers roughly two-thirds of the movie’s running time, is suspenseful and engrossing.
Shyamalan knows how to wring out every last drop of tension from a situation, and he certainly does that here. He puts his characters through the wringer, by continually bombarding them with increasingly dire scenarios.
Just when you think the characters are afforded a breather, WHAM(!), the director chucks something else at them. They are constantly run ragged, and this means he is able to keep the story going, largely by the sheer number of problems they face as their predicament worsens.
He also presents some unsettling moments which help to keep the story interesting, including a rather horrifying scene where one character comes and goes from the movie rather quickly. Given the premise of the film, this story beat shouldn’t have been quite as unexpected as it was, and yet it still managed to catch me off guard.
The film deals with youth, death, and the perpetual life-cycle, and this means it delves into a few places that are uncomfortable to watch. No one wants to go through the ageing process, so watching it take place rather rapidly on screen is a constant reminder that time refuses to stand still, and none of us are getting any younger.
In this respect, Old also feels rather timely, arriving at a point in modern history where the human race has had to consider its own mortality. As we have all had to fumble our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have considered the passage of time and our place on Earth.
On the one hand, at times it feels as if our lives are on hold throughout this pandemic, while on the other, we are watching certain aspects of society (technology, businesses, etc) speed up. We are currently living in bizarre times, almost as if we are in limbo, and parts of this feel reflected in Old.
My response to Old is fairly positive because I believe it is a good movie, that delivers what we have come to expect from an M. Night Shyamalan film. It features all of his signature marks, it tells an interesting story, and it doesn’t drop the ball.
The reason this isn’t an exceptional M. Night Shyamalan movie is because it never goes beyond the director’s established skillset. The film is fine, but at no point does it feel as if Shyamalan has pushed himself beyond what we already know he is capable of doing.
It is a neat little horror-thriller with something to say, but watching Old won’t change your life. However, it provides just the right level of entertainment, and that works fine for me.