M Night Shyamalan‘s name has become synonymous with a ‘twist’ or lacking that, a big reveal at the end of his films, whether he writes, directs or producers or all of the above. But with his latest film, Old, there is no expected ‘twist’. The mystery is played out over the course of the film and we are in fact presented a horror story with a thriller shell.
For those who have seen the trailers for the film, you will already know what the premise is. For those who haven’t seen any marketing about the film, stop reading now. A family, with their own problems, arrive at an exotic resort and health spa to enjoy a holiday together before, as we find out, the parents separate. They are told about a secluded beach by the hotel manager who organises a bus to take them along with another family. Everything seems normal, the water is inviting and the beach is big enough so everyone has their own space. But soon everyone starts to notice something odd happening, especially to the children. Everyone starts to age.
As a thriller, there is little to go by as the hotel guests on the beach try to work out what’s happening but then just try to survive each other and then old age. Despite being set on an idyllic beach, the story is confined to one location for the majority of the film and even manages to create a claustrophobic feeling. This is ramped up when one of the guests is revealed to be suffering from schizophrenia as he ages and becomes violent. The notion that ‘horror is other people’ could be the moto of this film, not only because we can become unpredictable put in impossible situations but as we age, we don’t what will become of us and how it will affect others. In the grander scheme of things, the fact that everyone was brough to this beach by the hotel, other people led them here on purpose for a purpose. People are cruel. The disappointing aspect of the film is that because we spend all the time on the beach, we never really get to see behind the curtain, it is merely touched upon. This is shame because what we do see is fascinating. If the film has been split between the two, I think the mystery element would outweigh watching a group of people slowly aging and being helpless.
Like most horror films, there is the final person, be it girl or boy but here we get to see a final family which is actually quite uplifting. They experience a lifetime in a day, go through all the arguments that could come up and forgive each other for things they end up forgetting. There is touching scene with all of them huddled on the beach that is a rare beautiful moment, not including the location that lingers in the mind after the credits roll.
Despite the very obvious plot point marking and moments where you can clearing see, ‘this will be important later’ glaring at you on the screen, the film has some very amusing comedic lines and does have some human emotion, even if the characters weirdly talk about what they do for a living all the time and only talk in the narrow confines of their characters. This is still probably the best film Shyamalan has done since The Village, which eerily shares some similar vibes.
Lastly, the cast is superb. Where else would you get a see a multinational cast come together for a horror thriller except at one set at a holiday resort. If you enjoy M Night Shyamalan‘s films, you won’t be disappointed, but if you’re looking for something of a high calibre, you might want to check out and try the next beach.