Stay off the sand: A group of innocent holidaymakers find themselves trapped in ‘Old’.
OLD *** (105 minutes) M
The dangers of neglecting your due diligence before embarking on a family holiday to a tropical island resort is brought to bear in M Night Shyamalan’s latest supernatural jaunt, a playfully macabre, twist-laden mystery thriller that unspools like a compact version of longform mysteries such as Under the Dome and Lost where you’re at one with the characters as you try to figure out what the heck is going on.
While enjoying a reasonably pleasant getaway, a select group of unwitting tourists are lured to participate in an off-brochure visit to a secret, secluded beach where they are promised a day of privileged relaxation and a scheduled pick up time.
Soon after their arrival, however, the visitors discover this ain’t no ordinary beach as weird and horrible things begin to happen, chiefly to do with time. It seems, thanks to the locale’s odd geology, that time is bending in odd ways that prompts rapid ageing.
As for getting away, guess what? No signal! And there’s no getting off the sand, either. Swimming to safety isn’t an option and walking pack to their pick-up spot proves impossible.
To divulge too much of the story would be to give too much away as the beach’s hapless victims try working out what is happening to them as we watch with a wholly unhealthy mixture of apprehension and delight, waiting for the next disaster to hit.
Shyamalan, who wrote and directed this engaging, low-budget diversion, makes the most of his isolated setting, cleverly imbuing the open space and sunlight with an tightening sense claustrophobia.
Stressing the bizarre experience his characters are enduring, Shyamalan uses some unsettling off-kilter framing and superb tension-building tracking shots as things grow ever further beyond the control and comprehension of these poor, beach-bound souls.
Given how erratic Shyamalan’s filmography has been, this is probably the best and most sustained work he’s done since 2015’s The Visit, though the inevitable twist in the tale delivered here, while good, can’t match it.
To be fair, though, Shyamalan does carry the burden of trying to top the classic he delivered with 1999’s The Sixth Sense.
Occasionally he’s come close, as with The Visit and Split; too often he’s missed the mark by a wide margin with duds such as The Village, The Happening and, of course, Lady in the Water .
Still you’ve got to hand it to him for making killer twists part of his trademark.
In tems of scale and style, Shyamalan is certainly in his element with Old. His stumbles with big films such as The Last Airbender and After Earth show how he is much more at home with tighter, smaller films such as Old, where he can slowly draw you into his warped world.