By Matt Christopher with Mark Ziobro
“Old” was an obvious choice as my first return to the movie theater since the days before The Pandemic. I’ve been a big fan of the works of M. Night Shyamalan since 1999 when “The Sixth Sense” blew me away. Trailers for “Old” got me pumped to see what new horrors the filmmaker had conjured, and an introduction by Shyamalan welcoming fans back to the theaters was a nice added touch.
I’ll start with this. “Old” was good, not great. On the M. Night Shyamalan cinema spectrum it falls below “The Village” and above “The Visit.” The finished product leans more thriller than horror and that’s okay as it successfully hits its mark at being thoroughly creepy.
The movie focuses on the theme of time, and specifically living in the moment. This aspect is hit hard and often right from the beginning scenes. We follow several groups of people as they vacation on a secluded beach that’s surrounded by treacherous waters and non-traversable cliffs; each of which make it impossible to leave. I won’t spoil further details about how and why they are there, or the supernatural elements that reside within the beach, but what transpires if the weirdest story Shyamalan has ever presented.
The ensemble cast is comprised of a variety of types, each of which has their own secretive backstories that are fleshed out slowly as the 108 minute film progresses. Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps lead the pack as Guy and Vicky Cappa; a couple taking their two young children on one final vacation before announcing an impending divorce. Rufus Sewell plays a racist surgeon with a vane young wife (Abbey Lee). Other characters include Ken Leung of “Lost” and “Saw” fame and Alex Wolff, one of my new favorite actors, who I loved in “Hereditary.”
“Old” differs from previous Shyamalan pictures in its cinematic presentation. Missing are the solid and traditional elements that made a film like “Signs” amazing. Here we get more artsy camera angles with sweeping pans and off-centered shots to convey the claustrophobic nature of the beach – some effective, others not so much. The bright palate of the setting and some of the visuals reminded me of another up and coming filmmaker, Ari Aster.
Shyamalan’s signature horror images are included and terrifying, while some scenes are jarring to witness. His twist endings are a staple, and this one works as effective, and quite believable in the current times with which we live.
The major drawback for me was the repetitive nature with which the mystical forces of the beach are displayed. It was like a laundry list of similar creepy things were hammered out one after another after another once the plot was introduced. I think a few more rounds in the editing room could easily have cut 10 minutes without missing a beat. And while the trailer brought me to watch it, several scenes would have been flawless had I not been aware of what was coming.
If you are looking for a film to see in your return to the theater, “Old” is a good choice. It won’t land in your all-time favorites list and probably won’t warrant a second viewing, but it is an enjoyable bit of entertainment.