The Spoiler-free review has been posted for this one, where I highly endorsed seeing this movie in theaters. If you took me up on that, you might be kind of pissed at me right now. Consider this my explanation, if not apology. If you missed it, well, consider this your one SPOILER WARNING. Now that I’ve talked about how much fun I had, I feel it’s time to really tear apart Old.
The first complaint is actually not unique to this particular title. If you’ve read some of my other reviews or listened to the podcast, you may be aware that I have some beef with trailers. They give away waaaaaay too much in trailers these days. A good example of this was the trailer revealing that Kara gets pregnant.
Of course, I’m almost grateful that the trailer spoiled that one for me. Because even knowing that it was going to happen, I was livid when it did. The horrible, awkward, sexual tension between two children in teenage bodies was hands down the most upsetting thing in the film. Knowing where it was going, in a weird way, helped cushion that blow. But the movie does try to play it off like a twist or surprise which, it wasn’t because it had already been teased.
All the rest of my complaints essentially boil down to one thing; missed potential.
There are ideas in this movie that they toyed with that were fascinating and truly horrific. The high concept premise left them a lot of unique ways to kill or punish characters that we haven’t seen overdone on screen. A great example of this, and perhaps one of my favorite scenes of the movie, was when Crystal breaks her arm in the cave. Due to the super-quick healing brought on by the rapidly aging cells, her bones heal before they can be set. Her quick disfigurement and death following that first break was some peak body horror. Unique, inventive, cringey. It also showed off how a gift like rapid healing can also be a curse, which was a really clever element to include.
This also led to opportunities for creative problem solving and out of the box thinking for the cast. There was a scene where Guy was being sliced at mercilessly by Charles but wasn’t dying because of the rapid healing. The solution for his wife was to slash at Charles just once, but with a rusty blade which became poisonous as it entered his bloodstream rapidly.
These scenes were like a proof of concept for the movie. There was something there, something fresh to be explored. If the whole movie had focused on these sorts of scenarios it could have been really good.
Alas, they were but gleaming moments in very murky waters.
Too much time was spent explaining the science of the beach. With science fiction, sometimes less is more and there were a lot of story elements in dire need of attention that could have benefitted from that screen time instead. We could have seen the emotions of children who are suddenly going through puberty, who have been exposed to death after death on this beach and, in a few short hours, will have to face the reality of losing their parents. We could have seen the adults trying to actually get off of the beach, since they didn’t even explore all the options that they had come up with before starting to die off one by one.
Instead of diving deep into any of the potential horrors of the film, we are treated to some groundbreaking science. The minerals from the rocks on the beach accelerate the aging of cells. The pressure is too overwhelming when you try to leave the beach all at once. And the effects can be stopped with coral. Apparently.
Since the kids don’t solve the mystery of how to get off the beach until they read the note from Trent’s friend anyway, we really didn’t need to hear everyone hypothesize about the science behind it.
Speaking of “why.”
Let’s talk about the “twist.” Between the in-your-face style foreshadowing and the pacing of an exposition dump right at the end of the movie, it pains me to call this one a twist. But because this is an M. Night Shyamalan movie… that’s what it must be called.
It was a secret medical research facility that had funded the whole thing! Wow! Big surprise!
But I mean, not really. Since the group had already figured out the hotel had their information, was choosing sick people, and had organized the entire beach trip, it didn’t come as much of a twist to find out there was a reason behind all of it that tied into both the resort and their illnesses. It was more like tying up loose ends than surprising the audience, no matter how it was framed.
I do want to talk about that secret organization though; another missed opportunity.
I am a sucker for stories like this. A big, high tech facility has to monitor unwitting subjects for the “greater good.” When it’s done correctly, it can be highly effective. It shows you the cost of saving humanity while asking if we’re a species worth saving. It’s good. On paper, it’s good.
None of that came through in Old.
They killed 11 people (12 if you count the baby that was born) to learn that one of their experimental medications saved a woman from having seizures for the equivalent of 16 years.
Now. Do the ends justify the means? Absolutely not. It’s not a moral gray area, it’s sick. And because it was the “twist” of the movie, we don’t even get to see if there’s a possible reason why they believe that they’re doing good. If the staff is buying into this idea of kidnapping families, there must have been one hell of a sale’s pitch at some point, and it’s a real shame we never got to see it. It really sucks that there were no redeeming qualities of the villains. Their motivation, as written, makes no sense.
There are so many more things I could complain about. There’s a rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan who says “Damn” in every line of dialogue he’s given. There’s a nurse who introduces himself twice in the same conversation for no reason. There’s a cardio-thoracic surgeon whos seems surprised that a tumor he has to remove is attached to something in the body. There’s an equation that’s supposed to explain how fast their time works in relation to real-world time that doesn’t seem to be consistent with the actual passage of time in the film. One of the “patients” that they’re testing medication on has a condition that simply can’t be cured with medication. The entire families are being killed to test the drug on one person at a time which is at best, confusing.
But I won’t get into anymore. If I pointed out every flaw or missed opportunity in this movie, we would all die of old age before I finished. I am officially throwing the beach towel in. This movie had many, MANY interesting ideas that were wasted with poor execution and terrible characters.
Anyone who knows me personally will know that I went through the same thing with The Happening. Where everyone else saw poor acting and a terrible, poorly laid twist, I saw potential. I saw a revenge story for mother earth that I desperately wanted to be something, even though it wasn’t. At least with Old, I knew better than to try and see the message.
If you’re going to enjoy this movie, which you absolutely CAN do, you need to go into with the attitude that it is terrible. Because it is.