M. Night Shyamalan has tackled ghosts (The Sixth Sense), superheroes (Unbreakable), aliens (Signs), monsters (The Village), crazy elderly people (The Visit), and even nature and the environment (The Happening). His amazing sense of detail to tell a story in the horror genre is uncanny and unmatched for this style. Shyamalan takes elements from Spielberg, Hitchock, and Romero and utilizes them in his own unique visual style and storytelling capability. These aspects are present in his new film titled Old, which focuses on aging in the most horrifying ways. Old is one of Shyamalan's scariest films and reveals why the iconic filmmaker is still on top of his craft both in the visual and storytelling department.
Not many people can tell a wise, compelling, and deep story in the horror genre, but Shyamalan continues to churn these knock-outs time after time, especially as of recently. Old is as scary as it is poignant about the fears of growing older and all the complications that come with that. Old starts off with a family of four Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their two young kids Trent and Maddox as they arrive at a luxurious hotel on a tropical island.
Once there, the family has enough fun, but it shows that Prisca and Guy are having severe marriage problems. The manager of the hotel shares with the family that there is a hidden beach they can go to for the day where the hotel can cart them there for some rest and relaxation to take in the beautiful scenery. The family arrives there with several other people of all ages and it's a picturesque scene of pure bliss.
It's not long though before everyone on the beach starts to notice things are a bit off as the young kids on this secret hideaway beach are aging extremely fast by the hour. Soon the young kids are teenagers and then into their early 20s. The parents and older people of the group don't seem to age physically. Instead, they rapidly grow cancers, become pregnant in the course of a few minutes, or even develop intense mental illness and dementia. This is the worst nightmare scenario for most people and Shyamalan explores that age-old question of, "what exactly would you do if you knew you only had a day to live?" Of course, these themes are examined after the initial shock of the situation and trying to figure out how to escape this horrifying place.
The characters seem to go through the stages of grief through the duration of the film with the beginning of shock and denial that leads into anger at the situation, following trying to bargain their way out of the element. After that, depression takes hold as the gravity of the experience sets in, which is when the characters start to accept their fate, come to terms, and in some way make amends. The characters live through this horrifying situation in a matter of hours as Shyamalan not only explores their feelings and thoughts on growing old at a rapid rate but also trying to survive this tropical island.
Shyamalan uses his camera to a magical and terrifying effect by not revealing the quick aging right off the bat. Rather he shows the horrified reactions of others by only giving hints of what's transpiring in front of them. Not seeing is often far more terrifying. It's an effective course to go in the horror genre and it makes a bigger impact in some of the more gruesome sequences that involve some illnesses and viruses that creep up in the span of a few moments.
Of course, there is the famous Shyamalan twist ending here. Instead of ending the movie a minute or so after the twist is revealed, the film goes on to explain more for quite a bit, which is entirely different than the rest of his films. This is because this surprise reveal has more layers of depth than meets the eye and is one of his most ambitious twist endings to date. Performances are solid as Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz, along with the rest of the cast stick with the Shyamalan method of subdued, and "less is more" in the acting range. It works to great effect here as each character is an emotional wreck throughout the movie.
Old was a fantastic and truly scary vision of what it's like to grow old and all the ailments that come with it. Only here is that it happens over the course of a day and once each character realizes that, it's a grieving process they must overcome. This thoughtful approach to body horror may not be for everyone but for those getting close to middle-age or beyond, it's a pretty damned horrifying prospect.