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  Old It Creeps Up On You
Year: 2021
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott, Alexa Swinton, Gustaf Hammersten, Kathleen Chalfant, Francesca Eastwood
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It looks like the holiday of a lifetime, an exclusive resort that Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) has arranged that his family stay at for a few days worth of beach activities and general luxury. His wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) is impressed, and the two kids are looking forward to their adventures, so when they get to reception and are greeted with specially made cocktails for the adults and a table full of candy for the children, Guy feels as if he has made the right decision. But should they take the offer of a day at a secluded beach? After all, they won't be the only ones there, and the scenery around here is so beautiful, what could go wrong?

The clue is in the title of this oddball effort from that exponent of the high concept, director and writer M. Night Shyamalan, who adapted a French comic book called Sandcastle for this tale of one of those movie illnesses that have consequences unknown to conventional science. This was one of those films where it was probably better if you were unaware of all the secrets it held going in, though that aforementioned high concept was all over the promotional campaign therefore you would likely be well aware that it was about a group of people trapped on a beach where there is an inexplicable outbreak of irreversible ageing afflicting them all.

Obviously all ageing is irreversible, but this condition positively gallops along, making the children turn into teenagers and then adults, and the adults grow ever more elderly - there are also complications from this in that they may have medical conditions to make life just that bit more challenging, and they are the sort that are only exacerbated by the effects of growing old. So why don't they simply walk off the beach and get the hell out of there? Don't think they don't try, but there seems to be a kind of blackout bubble around the enclave which has anyone who has a go at making an exit wind up unconscious and plonked back down on the sand again.

You can see why this would appeal to the filmmaker, drawn as he was to pulpy ideas that he could approach with the utmost gravitas, though there was a sense here he could have gone further, that he was holding back so he could secure the PG-13 rating and therefore increased revenue for the studio. If he had committed to getting truly grotesque, it might have been a more satisfying watch, but even so, what he did conjure up had at least a foot in the freaky camp - and I mean camp. Old was just as likely to make you laugh as it was to prompt cringes, and despite Shyamalan's stated intentions to explore his fears of ageing in both himself and others, there was a lot that was pretty ridiculous about the way he went for it.

There was not a bad cast here, some more famous than others, but they struggled a little with a screenplay that did not quite ring true, not in its minutiae and not in its grander gestures (did we really need Rufus Sewell to become schizophrenically murderous considering everything else that was going on?). Indeed there was a tone here of a piece that had been translated from a foreign language, and not very well, which considering its origins might not have been a million miles away from the truth. But there was so much wacky about the movie that it did win you over, purely because you were compelled to see where it was headed next. The unstoppable nature of time’s advance was the real villain - until a late development that turned this into a mad scientist flick, which may or may not count as the twist, maybe not as the signs were there early. Whatever, it was a daft chiller that held a definite unease: what indignities will we suffer as we age? You can't help but ponder on that while it plays. Music by Trevor Gureckis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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M. Night Shyamalan  (1970 - )

Indian-born, American-raised writer and director, whose forte is taking cliched fantasy stories and reinventing them with low-key treatment, usually with a child at the heart of them. After gentle comedy Wide Awake, he hit the big time with supernatural drama The Sixth Sense. Superhero tale Unbreakable was also successful, as was the religious alien invasion parable Signs. Shyamalan's mystery drama The Village was seen as ploughing the same furrow for too long by some, and his fantasies Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (which he didn't conceive the plot for) were met with near-universal derision. On a lower budget, he made The Visit, which was cautiously received as a partial return to form, and Split, which was his biggest hit in some time, along with its sequel Glass, a thoughtful if eccentric take on superheroes. Mid-pandemic he then released horror Old. He also co-wrote Stuart Little.

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