REVIEW: ‘Old’ is a middling Shyamalan offering

M. Night Shyamalan is back with another thriller, this time based on a graphic novel.

“Old” is Shyamalan’s adaptation of the novel “Sandcastle.” The film follows several people who’re together on a private beach owned by a resort on a tropical island.

While the cast is large, the movie mainly centers on one family, consisting of Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their children Trent (Alex Wolff) and Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie). At first, it seems to be a relaxing getaway, but things turn south fast. After a series of events, the group learns that the area they’re at makes people age at an accelerated rate.

“Old” certainly has a terrifying concept, and Shyamalan uses the idea to make some moments that are not only creepy because of what’s being shown on screen, but also frightening to think about in a metaphysical sense. The thought of death closing in faster and losing years off your life in a matter of minutes is scary, and some scenes really capture that element.

In that sense, there are times when “Old” has a sort of “Twilight Zone” feel. A contained story about a bizarre event happening to a group of strangers.

These stories usually work nicely because it leads to some suspenseful moments, as well as interesting segments of drama. The problem is Shyamalan’s ability for writing and directing drama can be hit or miss, and unfortunately it leans toward the latter here.

During several of the dramatic moments, the dialogue and performances feel unnatural and awkward. It’s scenes like these that end up pulling a viewer out of the moment, ultimately snapping the suspense.

oldmovie2
Courtesy Universal Pictures.

There are themes at play in the film about rushing through life, parenthood, taking care of elders in a family and accepting the process of getting older, which is a positive. However, while there are good segments on these topics, there are just as many sequences that seem to stumble.

Another issue with “Old” is how inconsistent it can be with its own rules. A specific one is how injuries work on the beach. At some points, for example, when someone is cut, they instantly heal. At other points, though, this doesn’t happen at all.

When supernatural elements are introduced, they should be consistent, otherwise it becomes confusing.

Some of the decisions characters make are questionable, too. Yes, this is a tense situation and people may not act accordingly, but what the characters do, or don’t do, in a few scenes really seemed outlandish.

As for the characters themselves, most of them work well enough. Shyamalan rightly gives his characters in movies that lean into horror some solid background and depth.

It’s good to have characters with complexities, which makes them more interesting. At the same time, though, the way the actors were asked to portray these characters left something to be desired at times.

Krieps, for example, who was amazing in “Phantom Thread,” seems kind of lost at times, as if she was given mixed signals on how to portray the character.

On the technical side, Shyamalan and his crew have an ambitious approach. They use a lot of clever shots to hide how the characters have aged for a certain amount of time before eventually doing the reveal. On the other hand, there are a few too many scenes where the camera rotates too much.

There are some well done moments with body horror, though, when the aging process starts to turn deadly. Shyamalan gets away with showing just enough to where it’s creepy, without being overly graphic.

“Old” is a lower level movie in Shyamalan’s filmography, but it doesn’t reach the depths of some of his other material. The picture has a few more misses than hits, and the twist can be pieced together fairly easily. “Old” comes in at a 2.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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