*. I wonder if M. Night Shyamalan likes making these kinds of gimmick films, or if it’s just something he fell into and now is stuck with. I actually think he likes making them. Otherwise he would have probably moved on.
*. The main idea here, of a beach where the visitors begin to age at a supernatural pace (two years an hour), came from a French graphic novel, but Shyamalan added his own twist. I think it’s a good premise, and the twist at least has its own sort of logic. Indeed, it’s not really a surprise at all. But the basic problem with all such twists is that they breed an impatience in the audience. You just want to find out what’s going on, and you don’t care so much about what’s happening at the moment, which all feels contrived anyway.
*. A film like this also not only dares you but begs you to question how well its bizarre premise holds together. I’m afraid it doesn’t. I was bothered by a lot of what was going on. Why do the kids seems to grow old so much faster than the adults, and how do they develop such intelligence and emotional maturity to go along with their physical growth? How do the people end up back out on the beach after suffering some kind of pressure sickness when they try to leave? Why do the dead bodies decompose so quickly? None of this made sense to me, along with much else I won’t get into.
*. Is it watchable? Yes. Shyamalan seems to have really been taken with panning the camera in this film, and he works the beach well as a location. We go through all the fairly predictable, and one not-so-predictable, crises and failed escapes. But the characters are nothing but the usual stereotypes (the accountant who won’t let up talking about the odds, the trophy wife who turns into a monster) and the story just sort of limps along. I wrote in my notes that it felt like a Twilight Zone episode put on the rack, and found out later that Shyamalan himself called it a “two-hour Twilight Zone episode.” So that’s exactly where you are.
*. Any thought of deeper connections is just wishful thinking. Shyamalan says he wanted to invoke the spirit of movies that developed a sense of natural supernaturalism like Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock, but there’s none of that. Nor is there any of the moral or political edge of The Exterminating Angel, which is another comparison that’s been made.
*. Instead, what with the (very) young lovers getting at it the movie that strangely crept to mind was The Blue Lagoon (1980). This made me wonder how many people today even remember The Blue Lagoon, which was quite the succès de scandale at the time. It seems to be one of those movies that has pretty much dropped off everyone’s radar today. It’s interesting how that happens.
*. Will Old fare any better, or will it disappear into the sands of time like the bodies on its beach? I suspect it will be remembered as a minor novelty, which is all that I think it tries to be. A bit disappointing given the potential it had to go in different and more interesting directions, but from this particular genre of beach movie there really is no exit.