M. Night Shyamalan has been surprising audiences ever since the release of The Sixth Sense in 1999. I have thoroughly enjoyed a few of his flicks, been annoyed by a few others, and found myself indifferent to the balance of his filmic efforts. While I can’t profess him as a favorite, Shyamalan has been impressive enough over the years to convince me to give him a chance every time out.
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Shyamalan moved to Pennsylvania with his family as a child. He’s been able to carve out a one-of-a-kind career in Hollywood. He’s written and directed fourteen features, becoming an authentic auteur, for whom audiences have developed a true respect. His latest film, Old, is arguably one of the most fun, most audacious accomplishments of his career.
Old is an ensemble feature about a group of vacationers that are offered a unique experience on a private beach away from their resort. The trouble is, once they arrive at the beach, they are unable to leave. Not only that, their aging process has increased to the point where everyone on the beach ages about fifty years over the span of one day.
The story was based on a Swiss graphic novel named Sandcastle that was published in the US in 2013. Shyamalan’s adaptation is fairly similar, with more additions than changes to the source material. He provides a more satisfying background story, giving audiences answers were not offered in the book. His ending, too, is more hopeful than the bleak finale in the tome.
Known for his plot twists, Shyamalan again keeps audiences on the edge of their seats throughout Old. Mixing humor and horror, his new film is both refreshing and beguiling. It’s full of surprises that even the most advanced screenwriters won’t see coming. One such moment, an accelerated pregnancy, would have been much more unexpected if Fried Barry had not already cemented a similar scene in my head earlier this year.
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One of the few misses in this film lies in the makeup. The characters are supposed to age one year every thirty minutes, yet a number of the adults show no apparent signs of aging. Obviously, the aging process for the children needed the most detail and attention, but I had a hard time accepting the lack of progression with some of the adult characters. It’s only a small issue, though, as the story helps push the film along.
Bonus features on the home video release include deleted scenes and four featurettes on the making of Shyamalan’s latest.
The deleted scenes are enjoyable and would have added to the film, but not enough to extend the running time any closer to two hours. It’s a fun glimpse into some extra details left out, while showing the kinds of decisions the filmmakers needed to make to tell the best story they could.
Shyamalan Family Business is a short feature about the director and his family. Shyamalan speaks on how the film itself was an exaggerated reflection of his personal life. His own children are now adults and he was inspired to write this new story as a reflection on how fast they grew up. His daughter, Ishana, is a second unit director on Old. Another daughter, Saleka, is responsible for the song “Remain” at the end of the film. It’s a wholesome look into a specific moment in a storied director’s career.
All the Beach is a Stage is another bonus short. Shyamalan talks more on his experience making Old, this time about his storytelling process. Cast members chime in glowingly about their time working with the director. Many of them reflect on what a special experience it was working with a masterful storyteller who was able to guide their performance.
Nightmares in Paradise is a third mini doc featuring Shyamalan and crew members discussing the importance of location for Old. The film was shot in the Dominican Republic with two main locations. The majority of the flick was lensed on Playa El Valle beach in the Samara Peninsula, while some early scenes were shot at a resort named Amanera. Shooting in the Caribbean was no easy feat. The infamous rock wall surrounding the beach was built for the film and had to be made twice due to hurricane winds. Wild dogs would also invade the set at times. They were harmless, however, and a few crew members adopted some of the homeless pups after wrapping production in the Caribbean.
A Family in the Moment is the fourth and final bonus short on the home media version of Old. The family focus on this featurette was about the bonds made between cast and crew, specifically shooting the final scene the main family shares together. It’s a sentimental look at how a group of people came together and pulled off a difficult shoot. It mostly repeats the praise and satisfaction people expressed in the previous features, so it’s likely just a nice way for Shyamalan to show his appreciation to those involved.
In the end, Shyamalan has made another entertaining film that fits right into the catalogue of movies he’s already made. It’s amazing how he has managed to continuously shock and awe audiences without sacrificing the integrity of his work. Old is definitely a worthy addition to his filmography and one that might just get better with age.