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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 8, 2021


M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, who was born in India and raised in America, impressed everyone with his “The Sixth Sense”, a box office hit that got Oscar nominations. 

Noted for his surprise endings, his works are either hit or miss. Some are outright disappointments like “The Happening”, The Lady in the Water”, “The Village”, “The Last Airbender”, “The Visit”. 

He is able to regain clout with the huge box office success of “Split” and “Glass”, which we personally didn’t like, and now he comes up with another supernatural thriller, “Old”, based on a French-Swiss graphic novel, “Sandcastle”. 

It’s about a dream vacation that turns into a nightmare for a group of tourists in a luxury resort who were taken in a private and secluded beach. This film was shot in the Dominican Republic and the location is really stunnning. 

We first meet a family of four, the Cappas. The parents are Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps, who was oustanding in “Phantom Thread”). Sorry, but the actors have no chemistry and Vicky is even taller than Gael. 

They have a small son, Trent, and daughter, Maddox (the kids will be played by various actors in their different ages in the course of the story.) 

It’s their farewell vacation because the Cappas are getting a divorce. The morning after their arrival, they are taken to an isolated beach, which is accessible only through a small passageway in between huge rock formations. 

Joining them is another couple, Charles (Rufus Sewell), a doctor, and his wife Crystal (Abbey Lee) who has bone disease, with their small daughter Kara, plus Charles’ aging mother Agnes. 

Also with them are black rapper Sedan (Aaron Pierre) and his girlfriend (Francesca Eastwood), plus an Asian guy, Jarin (Ken Leung), and a black girl, Patricia (Nikki Bird.) 

But their relaxing in the sun and frolicking on the beach quickly turn into trouble in paradise. 

The first to die is the rapper’s girlfriend and Charles suspects foul play because the rapper’s nose is bleeding but he says it’s because he is hemophiliac. 

The next to go is Charles’ mother and that’s when the rest of them realize that the beach is causing them to get old very fast. Every 30 minutes is equal to one year for them. 

This is something that the characters in “Lost” and “Survivor” never experienced.

The bodies of their dead colleagues also decomposed very quickly. They make an effort to leave the beach but there seems to be an unseen force that try to prevent them from leaving it. 

Charles loses his composure and cuts the rapper with a knife and his wound miraculously heals instantly. 

Prisca has a tumor inside her tummy that she feels is growing big so fast. Charles performs an emergency hurried surgery and is able to take it out. 

Meantime, the children’s growth are accelerated in a very fast manner. They quickly become teenagers and one of the girls even gets pregnant but loses her baby. 

They also discover that they are being watched from afar. In the end, the only remaining members of the group are brother and sister Trent and Maddox, who are now both middle-aged (now played by Emmun Elliott and Embeth Davidtz.) 

They remember that someone hinted to them that there’s a secret underwater passage through the corals through which they can escape from the evil beach without dying. 

After they get lost underwater, a resort henchman who’s been observing them from afar reports to his superiors that everyone is dead. 

And this is as far as we’d go in recounting the plot as anything else would ruin your viewing pleasure.

The scenes that follow explain what has been going on all along and the culprit is unscrupulous big business and ruthless medical testing.

It’s all up to the viewers if they would buy all the explanations being offered in the film’s climax and conclusion. 

We’ll admit that the original concept is great and interesting. After all, we are all afraid of growing old and infirm. 

We know the ravages of times are inevitable and our cells are deteriorating everyday, but for it to happen so fast in a matter of one day? That would be truly scary!

But how this is developed in the movie won’t pleased most thinking viewers, just like the twist endings he gave to “The Village” or “The Happening”, which are actually annoying and a big letdown.

 To begin with, we cannot sympathize much with the characters, what with the first couple about to separate and the other couple has a husband who is violent and has a problem with his sanity. 

If we couldn’t relate with the characters and whether they’d survive or not, how do we buy the movie’s central premise? 

We’re afraid that over the years, writer-director Shyamalan has not sharpened his skills in coming up with more satisfying twist endings. 

We concede the film offers beautiful scenery and fine cinematography, but perhaps it’s better if the film just ended without attempting to explain why the mysterious beach makes its guests get old fast. 

But perhaps he’s thinking viewers will want to have a neat resolution, so Shyamalan gives them one, but the way he handled it is very clumsy and unconvincing. 

“Old” is not scary in the usual sense of horror flicks, even if some of the characters die really horrifying deaths, but there is something frightening in its basic concept about how time is truly a terrifying enemy. 

It is just that Shyamalan was not able to concoct a neat resolution to make it fully realized. 

In the movie, Charles keeps on thinking of movie titles, but there is one movie he can’t remember starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.  Do you? Give Missouri a break.