The new beach horror film Old is atrocious and no amount of memes can save it
Enduring this film made me feel older than any spooky beach ever could
John Barrowman made a tit of himself over the weekend by publicly demanding from the cinema that he got a refund because he thought the new M Night Shyamalan horror film Old was “shite”. He got his refund, at the price of his dignity and a severe leathering on Twitter. It’s a vile video, and Barrowman gets increasingly more unbearable every day, and you aren’t entitled to get a refund for not liking a film. Especially not when the industry is quite literally on its arse after the impact of Covid. But as much as it pains me to say it, if any film is bad enough that you should get a refund for sacrificing your time, it’s Old.
Old, as you may have gathered from the poster and from the trailer, is a beach-set thriller where the horrors of ageing cause much distress to a group of holidaymakers who find themselves growing old at a rapid rate. Old is a film with a fun concept, from the mind of M Night Shyamalan – one of the most notorious directors in the industry. Over his career, Shyamalan has made a name for himself with his twists, and a distinct lack of consistency in his film’s quality. For every high he hits (The Sixth Sense, Split) there’s a film like The Happening to drag his reputation right back down into the sludge again. Old might just be M Night Shyamalan’s worst film yet, and it’s films like this that give the horror genre a bad name. Spoilers ahead, but perhaps that’s for the best.
The script should have been burnt after reading
Within the first three minutes of Old, Vicky Krieps’ character tells her daughter “you’ll be a great singer once you’re OLDer” with about as much tact as a slap to the face. It really set the tone that script wise, M Night Shyamalan’s Old was a film starting as it meant to go on. The film feels like it was written by someone who has never made a film before. Characters talk to each other without even looking at each other or feeling like they’re even listening to the reply. It’s chaotic beyond belief. Old is a horror film that has no idea if it wants us to take it seriously or not, there are scenes of horror and emotional drama undercut by jokes and nonsense every two minutes.
Nobody in Old has a conversation. So much of Old is spent watching a group of people tell each other what’s happening. “We’re on a beach that makes us old” is said over and over again, and yet the characters keep acting surprised when one of them suddenly, yep, you guessed it, gets older. And a character is genuinely called Mid Sized Sedan.
All the characters do is just state what job they have
Before the ageing chaos kicks off, the children in the film play a game at the hotel where they ask random people their names and occupations. It’s quite charming, and the kids are sweet. The charm soon wears thin when you see through this thinly veiled plot device for us as viewers to be aware that there’s a policeman present.
Once we’re on the beach that makes you old, characters are defined by their jobs and not much else. The doctor tells us nothing but how he’s an acclaimed surgeon. The therapist tells us she’s a therapist 80 times and then makes everyone get into a circle and talk about their feelings after they find a corpse. There are bones on the beach, so OF COURSE a character declares to us she’s a museum curator and knows all about bones and decomposition! HOW CONVENIENT!
One scene is so problematic I have no clue how it was given the green light
The children in Old are six years old, and grow up and change actors to become teenagers early on in the beach ageing pandemonium. Almost instantly, they have sex, and the girl gets pregnant. Then comes a manic sequence where the full pregnancy term lasts about two minutes, she gives birth, the baby dies from lack of attention after one minute and then they bury the bones. It’s grim, and clearly M Night Shyamalan just wanted to put a pregnancy sequence in to showcase that happening in the horror context of Old.
But these teens had the minds of six year olds. I don’t need to do a deep dive into this to explain why it’s ridiculous, vile and deeply disturbing to assume that they’d choose to sleep together when they have the minds of children.
For a film titled Old, half the characters literally do not get visually old
I don’t know what was going on with the budget here, but the adult characters in this film do not visually age. Some of them die of old age, looking the same age they did when they walked on the shore. Obviously, the child characters had to be recast to show their age changing because no six year old can play 50. The adults weren’t even made up to look old. No white or grey hair, no wrinkles, no prosthetics. Just a few middle aged actors trying to convincingly tell us they’re about to die of old age.
I didn’t sign up for realism in a film about a beach that speeds up ageing, but that takes the right royal piss.
The concept is actually good, but the execution is unforgivable
When I saw the trailers and posters for Old, it was a film I was ALL FOR! A ridiculous and chaotic romp about ageing with a load of body horror is right up my street, and in the hands of a better writer and director I still think this film could have had a lot of promise. The actors were great and the themes could have been done so well.
But the script of a film is like the foundations of a house, if it’s rotten nothing is going to turn out well. And this script is rotten to its core. Twitter is full of memes about the old beach, and they’re all hilarious. It’s fun when horror enters the cultural zeitgeist online – crap horror like Ma can reach cult classic status when it lives on through social media laughs.
But fun tweets do not a fun film make. Old smashed the box office on its first weekend, and despite a vastly mixed critical reception, its success will arguably prompt producers to pump more money into films that don’t particularly deserve it. Let’s give the same level of support to the horror that pushes boundaries and takes the genre to places that isn’t as draining as the beach that makes you old, as I would rather spend two hours of my life on that beach ageing rapidly than spend two hours of my life sitting through Old again.