Old (2021)

One thing that I had a problem with “Old” on is that M. Night Shyamalan sets up a lot of plot elements to his mystery that he doesn’t seem prepared to answer. Deep down, “Old” is a great concept and amounts to a pretty eerie movie. But the end result of “Old” is a great idea on paper that results in a clunky and occasionally silly movie that never quite knows how to close its narrative competently. “Old” seems to aspire toward cosmic horror, though it can never quite stick the landing when it comes to the Lovecraftian themes.

In hopes of spending the perfect tropical holiday and strengthening family bonds, overworked married couple Guy and Prisca arrive at a luxurious, suspiciously affordable resort along with their kids: six-year-old Trent and eleven-year-old Maddox. Instead, they are in for a big surprise, as a short visit to a secret private beach triggers a series of inexplicable, logic-defying psychosomatic changes, affecting all the guests of the secluded hideout. But on this sandy, impossible-to-find beach, time flies. And the beach doesn’t seem intent on letting them leave any time soon.

“Old” works more as a horror movie about rapid aging and an island that seems to have the cure to some ailments for better or for worse. However, Shyamalan tries to inject a lot of themes about time passing, the brevity of life, and fleeting youth that never quite hit home as he seems to intend it. In fact, there’s so much foreshadowing and lines about appreciating time, and not rushing through time that feel so forced, rather than insightful or existential. That said, “Old” does accomplish a lot in the realm of unease and tension, centering on a situation that becomes more and more chaotic and loony as the hours pass on. I was very much invested in what was going on within and around the island, and what the phenomenon in the island’s atmosphere could possibly originate.

The island accounts for about 95 percent of the film’s setting and Shyamalan is able to turn it in to a creepy villainous entity that is seemingly inescapable. I just wish Shyamalan could have given us more answers to the questions that we’re left with, in the end. How did these people concoct such an elaborate plot? How did they do it under the cloak of darkness? Why hasn’t anyone gone looking for the seeming groups of missing tourists? Why do the victims seem fine entering the island, but get sick attempting to leave it? Why does the island speed up disease, if they imply it can also cure them? Was Idlib sick? Why is going through the coral a safe exit?

“Old” is messy, and clunky in overall execution, but it does excel in suspense, tension, and a creepy backdrop that I wanted more of. It’s surely not Shyamalan’s best, but when it works, it’s damn spooky.