(KGET) — A good horror thriller starts with a clever idea, is filled with big scares and eventually reaches a satisfying end. Such a film would be considered great if there is an unseen twist along the way.
“Old,” the latest offering from writer/director/producer/actor M. Night Shyamalan, starts with an interesting idea. But, there are no real scares and the ending would have to improve just to be considered merely blah. Let’s face it. The last time Shyamalan put a clever twist in his film was 22 years ago with, “The Sixth Sense.”
A dull young couple – Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) – arrive at a secluded fancy resort with their two young children. The parents are struggling with a monumental secret and this holiday in the sun is to be a big happy moment before they reveal some big news to their children.
The family is convinced they should take advantage of a secret cove that only special guests get to visit. They head to the pristine shoreline along with several other hotel guests including a mentally unstable heart doctor (Rufus Sewell), a big-hearted nurse (Ken Leung) and a self-absorbed beauty (Abbey Lee).
All seems right as they bask in the sun until something very strange happens. The 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) has become the 11-year-old Trent (Luca Faustino Rodriguez) over a matter of hours. The group realizes there is some weird property connected to this beautiful beach that makes them age one year for every 30 minutes that passes. And, to make matters worse, they can’t leave the beach.
The idea of rapid aging is solid as it plays into anyone who fears getting older. It also sets up some interesting possibilities with the children as they grow into hormone-driven teens in a blink.
Such a story idea would have worked in an anthology show format where the idea and conclusion come within a 30-minute package. Shyamalan’s efforts to stretch this into 108 minutes leaves far too many dull lapses.
How scary can it be when one of the beach patrons is rapidly dying of old age? Watch out! Here comes another gray hair! Arrgh! It’s not like Father Time is going to leap out of the sand and chop off their head. Everyone just stands around talking about how they were alive a moment ago and now they are dead.
The biggest attempts at horror have to do with a person dealing with mental issues and another who has a calcium deficiency. It’s like having Freddy Krueger be looked at as an evil killer because he cancels insurance policies.
There are a few attempts to explain the big question of why the aging is happening but it comes too late to be interesting. A better story would have been to focus on what it is like for a person to go from 6 to 50 in a day. Does their mental aptitude grow with them? Do they have adult or child-like feelings? And whose idea was it to bring extra adult clothes for a day at the beach? Did the same person who packed for the “Gilligan’s Island” three-hour tour pack the beach items?
Time passes quickly for the beach party, but slowly for the viewer. Each minute of this movie feels like an eternity because so little happens. When the biggest moment of terror is someone trying to swim to safety, it is obvious the whole film is going nowhere.
It all comes to a crashing bore of an ending with a very obvious villain behind what happened. It is such a lackluster ending that any twist would have been a welcome relief. That never happens.
Shyamalan continues to show a great need in his life for someone to suggest putting his name on a project doesn’t guarantee quality. He needs to get past his own ego and realize a second voice might have convinced him that “Old” desperately needed new ideas.
Time will tell if “Old” can find an audience. Just be aware that you will be able to relate to the beach party if you sit through this clunker. It will make you feel like you have aged 100 years by the time the end comes.
“Old” opens in theaters on July 23.
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, Abbey Lee.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Rated: PG-13 for language, partial nudity, suggestive content, violence
Running time: 108 minutes.