Old movie review: M Night Shyamalan offers ‘memorable escapism’ with beach-set horror

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M Night Shyamalan returns with a new twisty thriller in Old but for much of the effective runtime you are left wondering whether the director will stick the landing

Old sees married couple Guy ( Gael Garcia Bernal ) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) head off on a tropical vacation with their young daughter Maddox and son Trent.

After settling in the hotel and enjoying a break, they are recommended to visit a private beach nearby and head there with other guests from their resort, including surgeon Charles ( Rufus Sewell ), his mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant) his glamorous wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), and their daughter Kara.

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as married father-of-two Guy who heads to one strange beach in Old
(Image: YouTube/Universal Pictures UK)

However, as the family settle on the beach it soon becomes clear that something very sinister is occurring as their bodies ageing rapidly, starting with the young children who proceed to mature at an alarming speed.

The group swiftly descend into chaos as they struggle to comprehend what is happening and work with increasing anxiety to escape this nightmare.

Thankfully for fans of Shyamalan, Old is not a nightmare but is actually a solid offering from the director after a history of hits and misses.

Vicky Krieps plays Guy's wife, Prisca, who is horrified to see what happens on the beach
(Image: YouTube/Universal Pictures UK)

While not reaching the heights of The Sixth Sense, Signs and The Village (yes, it’s a great film), Old is not akin to the mediocre outings such as The Happening or After Earth even if it occasionally leans into such territory.

Capturing the earnest family’s beginnings and flaws in its opening scenes, the children are especially endearing entering the harsher scenes to come but the panic-inducing scenes on the beach that follow are suitably frightening if not increasingly bizarre and cartoonish.

Thankfully, Old really leans into its more outlandish moments and does not apologise for this, despite providing a disorientating style throughout.

Alex Wolff stars as an aged version of the couple's son, Trent
(Image: YouTube/Universal Pictures UK)

There are also some highly visceral images that will be long-etched in the mind, but the weakest parts of the film emerge as it stumbles towards the finish line.

Pleasantly, the signature Shyamalan twist is not ridiculously bizarre and feels somewhat natural but the director seems somewhat unsure on where to conclude the story, with multiple scenes hammering home points already raised before.

Elsewhere, the ensemble's performances are something of a mixed bag as many characters are thinly drawn or don’t get much of a chance to shine – sadly the likes of Eliza Scanlen and Thomasin McKenzie are wasted here, but the actors who get to ham things up a bit fair better – particularly Sewell and Lee.

Prisca holds on to aged daughter Maddox, played by Thomasin McKenzie
(Image: YouTube/Universal Pictures UK)

Ken Leung and Nikki Amuka-Bird are also stand-outs as a loving couple who are thrust into the chaos later in proceedings.

Sadly, the heart of the film should really be Bernal and Krieps but we weren’t treated to enough time with them as a couple to truly feel the impact of their journey through the film. There are also some moments with them that feel a little forced, but this is more because the depth of character is not there than a reflection of their talents.

Regardless, Shyamalan knows how to entertain and entertain is what Old almost certainly does. Vicious surprises, a knowing climax, and a suitably morbid tone, Old is a good bit of fun even if it is not the director at his best.

Verdict

Old sees M Night Shyamalan offering some memorable escapism with twists, turns, and some heady moments of body horror – even if not everything about it lands as one might hope.

*Old is out in UK cinemas from July 23, 2021.

What is your favourite M Night Shyamalan film? Let us know in the comments below.

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