The Reverse Fountain of Youth – Old (2021)

Getting old is terrifying for many. So much so that it’s the premise for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror film. While it has to walk a thin line with the effectiveness of its premise, Old effectively balances its fear elements and humor for a surprisingly well-rounded and entertaining experience. 

A diverse group of vacationers is coerced to a private beach where time is drastically accelerated. They can’t exit the way they came and are stuck looking for answers and alternate escape routes before time literally kills them.

Shyamalan adapted this screenplay based on the graphic novel, Sandcastle by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters. It’s a bit hokey in its setup. The cast is primarily made up of characters with very exaggerated traits. Each personality is very distinct from the others so there’s very minimal time spent on establishing characters and motivation before the plot mechanism kicks in. 

M. Night Shyamalan on set at the gorgeous beach location

Fortunately, I think Shyamalan knew he was walking on thin ice with this idea and moved things along at a good pace so you don’t stop and ask questions. He also knew that taking the movie too seriously wasn’t going to work either so he made sure to keep some humor in the script as ballast for the inevitable death that was lurking over the horizon. Trying to be funny and scary at the same time isn’t the easiest thing to pull off, effectively at least, but the nature of the impending fear element allowed for moments of levity to work well. 

Rufus Sewell always brings the goods

I don’t think there was a lead role in the movie, regardless of top billing, but the reason I committed was because of Rufus Sewell and he didn’t disappoint. He usually plays a colossal asshole and that’s the case once again, but he’s got a very commanding screen presence and he definitely steals the show. Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie were both very good as well but, due to the nature of the plot, they weren’t playing their characters for the entirety of the movie. 

There’s the familiar “Shyamalan Twist” that we’ve all come to know and expect but the movie comes in for a bumpy landing. It kept going after the point where I thought it was going to end, came to another place to end it, and then continued again. The last ten minutes or so felt like they were trying especially hard to drive home the point, even though I thought it was all pretty obvious beforehand. Oh well.

Family is certainly a central theme for this film

I was surprised to see this movie win its opening weekend at the box office considering Snake Eyes was opening opposite, but that goes to show you the kind of drawing power Shyamalan still has. I wouldn’t rank this one as my favorite work of his, but it was much better than I anticipated and still enjoyable even though it’s pretty straightforward. 

Recommendation: If you generally enjoy Shyamalan’s movies, you’ll probably like this one. See it for the premise, stay for Rufus Sewell. 

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