The scares and twists are nothing new in ‘Old’

Thomasin McKenzine (left) and Alex Wolff appear in “Old,” the new thriller from M. Night Shyamalan.

Do you ever re-remember something that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago, and the memory of it is so vivid it could have happened last week? If you’re like me, you often think to yourself, “Where did that time go? How can I be this old already?” and I’m only 28.

Growing older can be scary, so the idea of being trapped somewhere with a supernatural force that causes you to age practically a lifetime in one day could be the set up for a pretty entertaining movie.

This is the basic plot of “Old,” a new mystery thriller in theaters now, but in the hands of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, you never know what you’re going to get.

Becoming a Hollywood sensation with the likes of “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” Shyamalan has never been able to capture the magic his late 1990s and early 2000s success had. He’s had a couple modest successes in recent years, but also had a whole lot more stinkers in his 25-plus-year career.

Shyamalan is 50 years old now, so it’s no surprise his latest production is about facing your mortality. I’m sure he’s looked back on his career and wondered how the thing everyone loves him best for was 22 years ago.

Unfortunately, as a pattern with the writer/director for much of his career, the overall story and filmmaking in “Old” is great, but the specific characters and dialogue are often laughably bad and the scares are less horrifying and more awkward and bizarre. You as a moviegoer have to decide if you want to spend an hour and 45 minutes of your finite time on earth watching a C-grade thriller.

It’s a perfect day at an idyllic tropical resort when three unconnected families head down to the same secluded beach cove with rock pools and sandy shore encircled by green, densely vegetated cliffs.

Soon after the dead body of a woman washes up on shore, the families realize something wrong is going on in this presumed paradise. In a matter of hours, the young children of two of the families have aged into teenagers as the adults begin to notice new wrinkles on their faces and gray hairs on their heads.

After trying to escape the way they came down but blacking out and ending up back on the beach, everyone soon realizes their bodies are aging about one year every half hour and there doesn’t seem to be any way to escape the cove.

Even though he doesn’t make them as great as he used to, I’m always going to support Shyamalan because I’m always so interested to see what his next project is going to be. As mediocre or bad as many of his films have been, they are still entertaining and technically well made.

In a recent YouTube video about Shyamalan’s career, the YouTuber said you can turn the volume off on any of his films and just watch it as a silent movie with the music and the story will make perfect sense, which I agree with. All of the camera movements and editing choices in his movies tell a great visual story, which are often boosted by the excellent music and sound design.

Alas, the biggest handicap for “Old” is the same issue with nearly all of Shyamalan’s films: the words and how the actors say them. Even with some really good actors in this movie, they just can’t convincingly say the lines. Half the time it’s unusual deliveries that make the characters seem like aliens and the other half of the time it’s like a newbie’s first role in the community theater. Either way, the people don’t feel like people so I don’t care about what happens.

This is also tough to pull off when trying to give some genuinely unsettling scares or shocking horror. While there are some scary moments with some great practical effects and CGI, the way the characters describe or react to the moments makes any building horror fall flat.

In a recent interview, Shyamalan said he’s already working on the script for his next movie, and I have to admire him for his passion. Regardless of how much people like “Old,” he’s going to keep doing what he loves. Hopefully the next one will be even better.

(Contact editor/reporter Kellen Quigley at kquigley@oleantimesherald.com.)

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