In M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller Old, a group of vacationers become trapped on a secluded beach that somehow causes them to age rapidly.
And if thinking about the future or ageing stresses you out, you better take some calming breaths before this one.
Old brings together an oddball collection of families on a secluded private beach. But this dip into paradise proves to be something else entirely when a dead body washes ashore…and then decomposes to bone just hours later.
Now all at once the kids are teens, and sudden wrinkles are the least of everyone’s problems…
Old leaves you riddled with anxiety
While I love a good ghost story or monster flick, the best horror is always grounded in reality. It sits with you long after the movie ends, because it plays on our real, deepest fears.
That’s where Old really shines. I can honestly say I have never been more anxious about ageing in my LIFE.
It’s not an issue of vanity or even independence, but that ever-present reminder of our mortality. Old keeps you on the edge of your seat because that slow-ticking clock suddenly speeds up, becoming not an issue of the distant future but one of the right now. Death isn’t even the scariest part; what’s really frightening is change, and the unknown. This movie isn’t about fearing an unseen monster waiting around the corner, but fearing what you and your loved ones will become.
Normally, fears about aging and declining health are realized with a slow, creeping dread. We see a parent become increasingly forgetful, or find ourselves needing reading glasses. Old hits fast-forward and escalates that dread to a non-stop barrage. These characters don’t have time to figure out how to escape their situation – though they try admirably – and as a viewer, you don’t have time to escape the thrilling pace. Once Old gets going, it doesn’t let up. It can’t. There isn’t time.
A mixed impact
Ageing anxieties aside, the character-driven elements in Old prove a bit of a mixed bag. With a setup like this one, you expect to see some powerful character development unfold as everyone begins to experience their lives in fast-forward. Unfortunately, the movie never seems to quite get to the emotional depth the premise lends itself to.
I’ll say it’s through no fault of the actors, to be clear. Performances throughout Old are strong, especially for those tasked with playing 6-year-old kids as adults. True, the dialogue itself ends up clunky in places. (It’s honestly a little painful to watch the group figure out the whole speedy-aging thing.)
Although the film opens with a clear focus on one family’s complicated dynamic and fragile emotional state, a lot of that nuance gets lost in the middle of the film. As Old escalates time, the film increasingly focuses on the physical symptoms of aging. This keeps it exciting as a thriller, but misses out on some important mental and emotional development. By the time those themes make a return in the finale, it’s not as impactful as it could be. It’s hard to press fast-forward and still make a lifetime’s worth of emotional beats feel earned.
Is there a classic M. Night Shyamalan twist?
Yes, there’s an M. Night twist on this story that comes into play at the very end.
This is less of a game-changing finale and more of an explanation for what’s already happened, though. It definitely makes sense and connects some dangling threads from throughout the movie. That in turn makes the movie better, since it seals up some existing plot holes. But for me, it didn’t really have that “wow” factor. You’re not getting a fun last-minute shock so much as a bow to tie things together more neatly.
Old premieres in theaters July 23.