Night Shyamalan is known for his “twist” endings. Over the years it’s lost its luster because audiences already know something is coming. Whether it adds to the mystery is always up for debate. With Old, Shyamalan adapts Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters’ graphic novel Sandcastle in Shyamalan-overdrive. From the very first shot, you’re waiting for the twist, which then forces you into trying to figure out what’s going on without taking any time to even try to enjoy the film. Old is deliberately disorienting, extremely uncomfortable, and way too long.
Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) have just arrived at the luxurious Anamika resort with their children, Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton). While being swept up in paradise, the couple are having some marital issues, and Prisca has recently been diagnosed with an illness. One their first morning, the manager suggests they take a ride to a secluded beach, along with another family: Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and Charles (Rufus Sewell), their daughter Kara (Kyle Bailey), and Charles’ mother, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant).
Things may not be as it seems for the group when they realize that Brendan (Aaron Pierre), a famous rapper named “Mid-Sized Sedan,” is ominously hanging around. Soon enough, the dead body of Brendan’s one-night stand from the night before comes floating in, throwing the group into chaos just as additional guests, Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Jarin (Ken Leung), arrive on the scene. Now, they’ve all come to the realization that they’re aging at incredible rates, causing some of their underlying health conditions to wreak havoc while they all try to find a way off the beach.
One thing is for sure, the main concept of Old —- without the shoehorned Shyamalan twist — could have made a fantastic episode of Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. But alas, Shyamalan drags it out to nearly two hours. Even just a quick 90 minutes could have made a world of difference. The set up is moderately quick, and he wraps things up even faster. The twist may give closure to any surviving characters, but there are so many unexplained answers about the beach itself, you’ll either be too bored to care, or imagine your own bound-to-be-better explanations, by the time it’s finally over.
The cast play all of their parts scrambling from over-the-top to subtle with no rhyme or reason. The cinematography spins ’round like Shyamalan simply put cameras on a turntable and yelled, “Action!” If anyone deserves kudos, it’s the sound mixers as they manage to place every sound in its exact location regardless of where the action is happening or the camera is lingering. The dialogue is also made up explicitly of exposition which quickly wears out its welcome when being used for an entire movie.
For anyone terrified of growing old, or with an underlying health condition, it may work wonders, but for everyone else, it’s going to be a huge yawn fest. Old may be far from Shyamalan’s worst film — see The Last Airbender and The Happening for that — but it’s definitely not his best. This isn’t even The Visit good. It never goes far enough, yet never plays it safe either. Old could have been a divisive love-it-or-hate-it movie, instead, it’s just a huge case of meh. After the likes of recent horror offerings such as Freaky and the Fear Street trilogy, we deserve better, especially when it comes from someone we know can do better.