With its complexities and anxieties, we often miss out on the joys of growing old. Yes, the spectre of death does lurk around every day, but the fleeting nature of youth shouldn’t stop every once in a while and smell the flowers. In 2021, M. Night Shyamalan went back to his distinctive style creating a seemingly idyllic resort with a sinister dose of sci-fi and horror, as holidaymakers got to experience the danger and terror of Old.
Despite suffering from medical and personal issues, the Cappa family decide to take a nice family holiday. At the resort, the manager recommends an exclusive trip to a private beach, with a few notable names. Once they arrive, weird stuff starts to happen, affecting the party in a variety of unsettling ways. Escape seems almost impossible, but they need to get off the beach fast, as the youth and health start to deplete at an extraordinary rate. Will they survive, or will the beach outlive them?
There is a delightfully off-kilter energy that Old radiates almost as soon as it starts, from Trent Cappa asking each character their name, age, and profession. This mainly resonates in the assortment of characters, as we will soon discover each has their semi-secretive ailments: A rapper with the handle Mid-Sized Sedan, a model with a case of chronic calcium deficiency, and a doctor. Along with the Cappa family, whose family might have been their last, even before heading to the cursed beach, as divorce and cancer lie in the cards. The composition of the cast is a wonderfully international ensemble, considering the film is set at a resort, this is somewhat to be expected. From the Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps, The Motorcycle Diaries own Gael García Bernal, and the likes of Rufus Sewell whose character has an ironic end, if you have seen his previous work in The Father.
The effects worsen as the film goes on, but you could probably guess that from the film’s Title/Poster/Sarcastic memes. The execution, however, far exceeds the premise, as you see these consequences come to a head. From six-year-olds quickly physically maturing to adults in a blink of an eye, to psychosis as a result of mental and physical decline due to ageing, resulting in a nightmare resolution. It is enthralling stuff, that you get to see play out in… I was almost going to say real-time. As is to be almost expected, the audience does get a classic Shyamalan resolution, complete with a moderate cameo from the man himself.
Old is a fascinating film, taking a varied cast, putting them in a confined space with an astonishing problem and watching these characters try to tackle it. Evoking a lot of Shyamalan’s work before Old, and signalling a nice return to form for the director. It feels rarer each passing day to see a standalone film like this, one that offers a refreshing return to what cinema used to be. Unafraid to take a chance, nor to embrace its idiosyncrasies to make a compelling horror film. It feels like that Old will outlive all the critical doubts to become a well-remembered triumph.
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