M. Night Shyamalan is a bit of hit or miss for me of lately. He comes out with a great film like SPLIT and then he comes up with something underwhelming like GLASS. I would put his newest picture OLD in the category of his best film. It’s not perfect, but I still find it entertaining. It provides us with great scares and good storytelling.
This film doesn’t have the surprise, out of nowhere third act that you expect from the director. There is a surprise in the film; but it slowly unfolds throughout. The film also does a great job in being terrifying work of body horror. It also has a heart showing the maturity that comes with aging.
OLD is the story of the Maddox family, the father Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their kids Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie, Embeth Davidtz, Alexa Swinton) and Trent (Alex Wolff, Emun Elliott, Nolan River, Luca Faustino Rodriguez) who all win an all expenses package to a resort. The resort is too good to be true. They are given all the luxuries; it seems this will be their best family vacation. At the resort they are told about a secret beach with some unique rock formations few miles away. The family go to this beach with another family from the resort, a doctor (Rufus Sewell), his trophy wife (Abbey Lee), his mother (Kathleen Chalfant) and daughter Kara (Eliza Scanlen, Kyle Bailey, Mikaya Fisher). They also meet a nurse (Ken Leung) and his epileptic wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird).
Once they get to the beach, everything appears normal. They eventually start noticing that the kids are aging extremely fast and the eldest in the group are starting to act weird. They eventually realized this beach makes you age fast. An hour here is like two years. They must leave this beach as soon as possible. The only problem is that they can’t leave the beach thru the same way they came in. There is a force that is keeping them from leaving the beach. They need to find a way out before it’s too late.
Earlier in this review I mentioned this is a body horror film and it’s frightening seeing the ways this beach makes your own body turn against you. The characters heal fast on this beach which causes weird injuries. There were many examples of this that made me squirm in my seat, especially one scene that involves a character repeatedly breaking their limbs and turning into a pretzel monstrosity. OLD does an amazing job with its slow burn pacing.
Shyamalan shows great strain in this film in the use of his special effects as the film could have turn into a CGI spectacle. There are moments when he doesn’t show the full body of the characters. The characters just out of frame or their back is against the camera; but you can sense their change. The camera suddenly shows the character and just start noticing the changes. He is shooting this film as if he didn’t access to CGI. He especially does this for the children in the movie. At certain points you see the children been shot from their back and you start noticing that their voices start changing during their dialogue, but you’re not seeing their faces and then in the next shot you see them at a different age.
The actors do a great job in showing the desperation at trying to escape the beach. You can hear the ticking clock thru this movie in your mind. It makes you feels tense throughout the movie. Even during the few calm moments. I love the acting from the actors playing the kids as they had at least three or four actors playing their older version and they all did a good job in showing that even though this was being played by an older actor there was a still a kid inside.
We also see the maturity of this character as they age in this beach. The character start thinking about their most regretful decisions in their life. They also forget about the petty feuds they had in their life. Now that their aging they find the feuds seem silly. At the same time there decaying, their minds are expanding as they get older. The characters realized how small their petty problems are as their facing their mortality.
I am glad to say that M. Night Shyamalan’s OLD is a good return to form. I love how he uses this premise of a beach that is accelerating your age as metaphor about the way in which our society deals with the fear of aging and at the growth that you go through life, while giving us a terrifying experience. I would put this as a movie to watch at the theater. You want to watch it with an audience.
OLD is now playing in available theatres in Canada and the US.