M. Night Shyamalan has been one of the masters of the twist going on for a couple of decades now. Sure, there was something of a mid-career lull that brought him off the shortlist of most-captivating directors, but it’s clear the guy has been on the comeback over the last couple of years. And his most recent film was definitely a return to some of the things the director does best. Namely, creep you out, get you to feel a bit off with what’s happening, and offer something at the end that makes you see the whole movie in a different light. That’s been the case with Old and fans are taking notice once again. It’s currently crushing it on streaming, sitting at second overall on HBO Max in the United States.
Old starts off as a simple family vacation movie, with a strained couple opting to take their kids on one more trip before letting on that a divorce is impending. But because this is an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you know that the situation is tenuous at best and terrifying at worst. Though the resort seems idyllic in its veneer with stunning beaches and even better views, the whole thing is about to devolve into a complete and utter nightmare. That’s because the beach has something it does to people that might make this a pretty short trip. It ages anyone who’s on it at such a rapid pace that literally, your whole life flashes in front of you in what seems like a matter of minutes. Check out the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s Old.
Oof. That’s a rough vacation. It’s an off-putting look at life in fast-forward, something that M. Night Shyamalan uses as the basis for the plot. The island guests all experience an aging process that puts them in a perilous spot while they try to figure out what the hell (and I mean “hell”) is happening with this place. The flick works on a couple of different levels, but mostly is in the vein of other works from the director in which you, the viewer, is just trying to figure out what the heck is going on before it’s all too late.
From a cast perspective, M. Night Shyamalan had a couple of hurdles to clear here. For starters, he worked to get a diverse group of beach denizens all suffering from their particular forms of confusion about the proceedings while bringing in aspects from their ‘regular” lives onto the island. There’s Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps as the unhappy couple who make an even unhappier decision about where to vacation.
And then there are their kids who are played by Alex Wolffe/ Emun Elliott and Thomasin McKenzie/ Embeth Davidtz respectively, the younger and older versions who age on the island. Plus we get Rufus Sewell, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Eliza Scanlen, and Aaron Pierre.
Maybe because this was an M. Night Shyamalan movie, or because it was a world coming out of a pandemic into reopening theaters, Old did quite well at the box office. It took in more than $90 million on its $18 million budget, a clear win all around. Was it in the range of some other M. Night Shyamalan blockbusters? Clearly not. Heck, The Sixth Sense made $673 million and Signs did $408 million. For the director, this ranked as his 11th-best box office performance. But those other films were done in seemingly a different time. Gone are those kinds of non-franchise blockbusters. I would count this take as a home run.
As for the critics? Well, they were a bit more lukewarm on what M. Night Shyamalan was offering here. Old is sitting at 50% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 53% Audience Score. I would contend here that the film suffered in these respects because of the name of the director and not for what was actually happening on screen. The flick, from a premise and suspense angle, completely holds up. But the expectations on M. Night Shyamalan at this point are always going to be up there. Place another regular, no-name on this thing and the critical score would almost definitely trend higher.
Next up for M. Night Shyamalan is Knock at the Cabin, one that is set to be another terrifying look into humanity that hits a little too close to home. It’s described as an invasion horror flick set during the apocalypse. So, yeah. This one might have people running to theaters once again.