Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: A family on a tropical holiday discovers that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day.
Review: M. Night Shyamalan is as polarising a filmmaker as they come. Early on in his career he delivered the kind of movies that injected some much need adrenaline in the horror/thriller genre with The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable. And for a while there it seemed like we had the makings of a truly iconic director and writer. But somewhere along the line I think his ego may have gotten the better of him, and with every follow-up movie things went from bad to worse. Lady in the Water and The Happening are just a couple examples of how far the mighty had fallen.
Some time passed and M. Night jumped back in the genre pool, penning the story for 2010 supernatural horror Devil, a movie that I actually found quite enjoyable if only for its easy-to-digest feel. And then seemingly out of nowhere he KO’d everyone with Split. Long story short, the man is like that ex you keep telling yourself you’re done with, only to have them seduce you into giving them a second chance. Which brings us to his latest, this time adapted from a novel written by Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederick Peters. Old taps into one of those fears we all have but never really talk about—the fear of growing old and what the ravages of time can do to us and our loved ones. But is it any good? Let’s take a trip to a secluded beach and find out.
Our story follows a family consisting of Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps), Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton). They’re heading to a resort for what could be their last vacation together as a family, because, unbeknownst to the kids, their Mom has a tumour that may or may not be life-threatening. And, to top it all off, Guy and Prisca are considering getting divorced.
When the resort owner tells them of a secluded beach they could go to, they’re taken there along with some other people by none other than M. Night himself; longtime viewers of his films knows he loves putting himself in his own films. Once they get there they quickly begin to realise something is wrong and as time passes the kids, including a young girl named Kara (Mikaya Fisher), all age about five years in the space of an half hour. Things get worse as whenever they try to leave the beach they blackout only to find themselves back in the same place they started. And as the kids quickly turn into young adults while the adults themselves start suffering with old age maladies such as poor eyesight, dementia and more, we get sucked into a story that’s at its best when the focus is on how terrifying the prospect of ageing can be, and at its worse whenever M. Night starts enjoying the smell of his own bull.
Pacing and editing goes a long way in keeping the tension tight in this surreal thriller/horror. Time is the enemy here (along with something else I won’t reveal) and, because the film is paced so well, you really feel that sense of urgency these characters must feel. Each time they try to get off the beach and back to “reality” and each time they fail, it made me not only frustrated but truly terrified for them as the hours ticked by. The standout performances for me were that of the older versions of the kids, played by Alex Wolff (who was amazing in Hereditary) and Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit and Leave No Trace) but for the most part, all of the actors do a wonderful job of engaging us in this twisted tale that would fit perfectly into an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Ironically like the process of ageing itself, the movie loses a lot of its strength as it moves into the final act. There’s this weird tone to the way the actors deliver their lines, something I’ve found in previous Shyamalan films. It sometimes sounds like they’re practising their lines rather than delivering the finished product. And, also like some of his previous films, the exposition-styled dialogue can feel like your being talked down to, rather than being allowed to figure out the mysteries for yourself. I also wished they would’ve gone a bit further with the makeup effects to show the passage of time, as well as what time can do to a decaying body. Maybe it’s the horror lover in me but the PG-13 vibe I was getting every time something gruesome was happening is not what I want from a genre film.
I’ll say this for the movie—it made me want to read the book. The ending goes for logic rather than surrealism which I think was such a waste as stories like this one tend to work better when things are left open to interpretation. Instead Shyamalan goes the “rational” route, and in the process sucks a lot of the entertainment out of what is a pretty cool concept. All in all, it is one of his better movies, so here’s hoping we see more like this and less like The Village (the horror!) from the man named M. Night Shyamalan (hey, that rhymes!) in the future.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
So what’s your favourite M. Night film? And what’s your least favourite? And you can check out more thriller/horror content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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