M. Night Shyamalan’s Old takes a horrifying premise and keeps the audience on edge until, in classic fashion, a big twist reveals all.
The twist in Old, however, is not as shocking or mortifying as one would hope. Instead, it’s simply satisfying, which feels adequate considering the tense journey leading to that point.
The film follows a couple, Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their two young children arrive at a luxury island resort to get away for a while so the parents can sort out some personal issues. The resort host offers to send them off to a remote island with unique natural resources for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the family jump at the chance. They arrive on the island with several fellow resort guests. Things soon turn dark after a dead body washes ashore; the corpse linked to another resort guest who had been suspiciously sitting and waiting for their friend to re-appear after a swim.
There is a bit of a frenzy at discovering the body, and things turn even weirder when it’s realised that the island’s unique properties include ageing at a rapid rate, some two years for every hour a person stay there. What’s worse is no one can leave, with each attempt sending the ill-fated guests back to where they started. The threat and fear of death take hold of the guests as they frantically try to solve the mystery of their fast-decaying bodies and minds.
It’s a terrifying premise, and outside of an awkward start, Shyamalan wastes no time building the suspense and mystery. The fear of the unknown begins to loom once the film’s narrative gets rolling, and you can forgive some of its flaws. The film features average writing and performances, especially early on, that gets only slightly better as the film progresses. Sadly, this means the story isn’t as absorbing as possible, but it still makes for a decent form of horror movie escapism.
Old asks its viewers to question their mortality and what is important to them in their limited time on this earth. This profound theme is explored through the relationships between the characters and their unique personal hardships. They all have something that needs fixing. The idea is great, but the execution of the theme is lacking, instead opting to focus on the mystery and horror elements rather than character and relationship building, ultimately making it difficult to connect with any of the characters on an emotional level.
Despite this, it’s hard not to be drawn into the web that the director is spinning. The film invites the audience to solve the island’s mystery alongside the characters through the clues revealed along the way. The way the mystery unravels is not entirely clever but does make for an engaging and sometimes exciting viewing experience, and sticking around to see the twist is half the fun.
Old features a unique premise with some decent horror and suspense, and while its twist isn’t mind-blowing, it’s certainly worth the wait.
The film is an adaptation of a 2010 graphic novel by writer Pierre Oscar Lévy and artist Frederik Peeters called Sandcastle. When asked what inspired him to adapt the book to film, director M. Night Shyamalan explained: “The book gave me the opportunity to work through a lot of anxieties I had around death and aging, and things like my parents getting older.”