Old is pure Shyamalan, right down to the inconsistent tone and unnatural dialogue.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen our share of bad movies, but no one can make them quite as bad as M. Night Shyamalan, and I mean that in the best way possible.
It’s weird because this guy started off as a true rising star in the industry. For the longest time, many screenwriters praised how he managed to throw twists into relatable and engaging stories. Unfortunately, it was that same praise that went to Shyamalan’s ever-growing ego.
After his success with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, movie studios wanted to give him more freedom with his stories. We were given films like Signs and The Village in the following years, which boasted some interesting ideas but couldn’t quite stick the landing.
Then, for the next seven years, we were gifted some of the worst and most insane projects to come out of Shyamalan’s filmography. From the just plain bad The Last Airbender and After Earth to Lady in the Water and The Happening, which I swear we’re just the writings of a madman. Some have even been hailed as “classics” for being so bad that they might be really entertaining to watch.
He would eventually bounce back with films like The Visit and Split, once again executing clever ideas in a new and engaging way. But I am delighted to announce that he’s now returned in full form to his entertainingly bad self.
Old is so delightfully awkward and uneven that it’s kind of amazing that it exists in today’s film line-up. The unnatural dialogue and perplexing performances will take you right back to Mark Wahlberg’s infamous “What!? No” line from The Happening.
Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old tells the story of a group of people who find themselves rapidly ageing on a secluded beach. No matter how hard they try to escape, they always end up blacking out and returning to the beach.
From that premise, there could be some potential to create a more contained horror film, playing with the idea of confronting your mortality. Unfortunately, it’s hard to grasp the tone because the actors’ delivery is all over the map.
Shyamalan’s writing always has that hint of pretentiousness that comes off really comical, as if he believes that what he’s putting out there is highly profound and deep, but it’s just insanely awkward. And that’s exactly what’s portrayed on the screen.
Some of the actors, like Gael García Bernal and Rufus Sewell, mange to deliver decent performances but everyone else just looks so lost. Constantly staring into the camera or into the distance with a face like they just read the script five minutes before shooting.
There are even glaring inconsistencies with how the beach works. At one point in the film, they claim that seven years pass in three hours, which makes sense as we see the kids go from childhood to their teenage years to adulthood. However, the adults rarely look like they’re ageing, despite going through typical ageing issues like hearing loss or poor eyesight.
If you’re going into this movie hoping for an authentic horror experience, you’re not going to get it. It probably doesn’t even work as a horror-comedy because, unlike The Visit, you’re not supposed to laugh at this film; it’s just an inevitability.
But, don’t get me wrong, I’m still recommending you go see Old, just to take you back to those days when you thought The Happening was going to be the next big horror film. But, like those people on the beach, Old probably won’t stand the test of time.