If there is a director that I’m unsure how to feel about, it is M. Night Shyamalan as he has both some fantastic films (The Sixth Sense (1999), Signs (2002), Split (2016)) and some of the worst films I’ve ever seen (Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), and what I consider the worst and most disgraceful big-budget Hollywood film ever made, The Last Airbender (2010)). So, every time I go into one of his films, I normally go in with extremely low expectations. However, with the incredible trailers and the great cast in the movie, I went into his newest film, Old (2021), with optimism. Lo and behold, I set myself up to be let down as Old is yet another M. Night miss.
Based on the French-Swiss graphic novel, Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old (2021) follows vacationing families that have been led to a secluded beach, away from their resort. After spending a few hours on the beach, the families realize that they have been rapidly aging and that all paths off the beach prevent them from leaving. Between their rapidly growing age and worsening health conditions, they must find a way to escape the beach, before the day is up and they age away.
Old (2021) has a fantastic concept that easily lent itself to incredible body horror and tense, anxiety inducing situations. Unfortunately, the film did not capitalize on the concept enough. While there were certainly great sequences of horror and tension, they were too little and too far in between as it seemed that the horror aspects, that were highlighted in the marketing, took a backseat. In typical M. Night Shyamalan fashion, this film has a lot of clues in the lighting, dialogue, and cinematography that lead to his big twist in the end. Unlike other Shyamalan films, however, the twist here wasn’t that surprising and rather predictable. Also, the clues scattered throughout didn’t enhance the viewing experience at all, but rather created really awkward scenes that felt out of place and amateurish. Overall, the big conclusion that Shyamalan built up towards felt hollow, and the film would have been significantly better if the horror aspects were given the focus over the build up to the twist.
The largest sin of the film, however, is the script. The dialogue in this film is atrocious, and not in the campy 80’s horror B-movie type of way. It was like M. Night did a Google translation from the source material’s French and didn’t localize it at all. So, a lot of the dialogue felt out of place, disjointed, and just outright poorly written. It’s a shame that the dialogue was as horrendous as it was because I truly felt like the actors were trying their very bests to salvage the film. Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Eliza Scanlen in particular were all phenomenal despite their horrible lines of dialogue. The other actors and actresses came off as just okay, but I think that was because their lines were considerably worse than the other three’s and their characters felt like flat caricatures.
Unfortunately, I was genuinely bored watching Old (2021). Had M. Night Shyamalan leaned more into the body horror and suspense, I fell like I would be able to overlook some of the other sins of the movie, but with the awful dialogue carrying the mystery aspect to the forefront, I felt like watching Old subjected me to the same fate as the families in the film: exponentially withering away from losing time I will never get back. Despite the really awesome concept and decent performances, if you are looking for a 2021 horror-esque film to watch before/on Halloween this year, this film is not the one, and I, unfortunately, do not I think I would recommend this film in any situation.
Old (2021) is rated PG-13 for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language.
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