Review: Halloween Kills (2021)

After their encounter with Michael, the Strode women, Laurie, Karen and Allyson head to the hospital. However, the fire department head to Laurie’s burning home. When it turns out Michael is still alive, the Haddonfield residents, led by Tommy Jarvis who encountered Michael 40 years earlier. But as they hunt for Michael as he continues his bloody spree, secrets about that fateful Halloween night in 1978 begin to surface…

2018’s Halloween film was a surprise. By ignoring all the sequels and being instead a direct sequel to the original it told an interesting story of a Laurie still suffering PTSD and haunted by her encounter with Michael 40 years before. When they finally came together on screen, along with Laurie’s daughter and grand daughter it was worth the wait. And to be honest, the ending itself would have been a worthy way to finally end the story.

But studios have other ideas.

2018’s Halloween, it turned out, was only the first in a new trilogy. 2021’s delayed Halloween Kills is the second part, with one more, Halloween Ends scheduled for 2022.

The opening of this follow-up throws in a surprise by revealing a character that everyone thought was killed in the first film is actually still alive. From there we have the first flashback to 1978, the night HE came home to find out where Michael went after falling from that balcony after being shot. It turns out he really did go home, back to his childhood home.

The film is written by Scott Teems, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, with Green returning to direct and focuses between the residents of Haddonfield hunting for Michael, Michael slaughtering anyone who gets in his way and Laurie in the hospital. In some ways this is the big problem with the film (though there is another that I’ll come to). Laurie (as always played brilliantly by Jamie Lee Curtis), because of her injuries is reduced to being a hospital patient. As a consequence, her part in the film is much reduced than before. On one level, it’s understandable after her injuries, but it does weaken the film.

But because of this decision, other character have to step up. It’s left to Karen (again well played by Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) to, to a degree, step into Laurie’s shoes. But while Allyson wants to get involved in the hun for Michael, Karen tries to keep Laurie and in some ways herself out of the search. Laurie, because of her injuries, Karen feeling completely overwhelmed by events.

But even they are somewhat reduced here as the idea of the townspeople hunting for Michael takes a lot of the run time. Led by Tommy (Anthony Michael Hall) another who encountered Michael in 1978, the townspeople hunt for Michael but actually add very little to the actual story. It’s a shame because its an interesting idea, but needed to be developed much better than it is here. Only a sequence in the hospital where they think Michael has turned up works effectively in this regard.

The flashback scenes are quite fascinating, as they (along with aspects of the story from the 2018 film) suggest Michael actually has his own agenda, something most of the Halloween sequels tend to ignore. For them, it was Michael after any member of the Strode family. Here though the film suggests a different idea, which again, needed better development.

The film is peppered with the deaths of assorted, frankly disposable characters, from the slaughter of firefighters, to various townspeople, with the exception of a couple of deaths, one a truly shocking one even if you can see it coming, you don’t care for any of those who are killed.

Because of the idea that the townspeople are hunting Michael, because of the events now and in the past, we get cameos or small roles for characters who were in the original. As well as Tommy, we get Laurie, the nurse Marion, Lonnie and former sheriff Brackett, whose daughter was a victim in the original film. It’s a nice touch, with the original actors Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens and Charles Cyphers reprising the roles, while actor Robert Longstreet plays Lonnie. It’s a nice touch.

But it’s really only in the final act that the film picks up the pace as events bring us back to Michael’s childhood home, as Allyson, Lonnie and Lonnie’s son (Allyson’s boyfriend) Cameron look for Michael.

But even here, there is a big problem (told you I’d come back to this!). One of the things about Michael is that he enjoys scaring as much as killing. As a consequence, most of his kills are simplistic to a degree, mostly with a knife. But here, much like in the Rob Zombie Halloween films, there’s almost a sadism in the kills. In some ways, this brings him closer to Jason in the Friday The 13th films. He also has become impossible to hurt it would seem. I won’t go into details, but watching the way Michael seems to shrug off any wound or injury he suffers again seems closer to Jason than to what Michael should be. Perhaps this is something that will be developed in the conclusion, Halloween Ends.

We shall see.

The soundtrack from John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies is terrific. The film is well shot, capturing both the look of the original film in the flashbacks as well as the present day scenes.

But by the end, you are left with the feeling that the writers and director have forgotten what made the original film so good, as well as their 2018 film. While it deserves a bit of credit for attempting to do something different with this film, sadly it doesn’t fully work. Instead what you are left with is a film that feels like one of those sequels they chose to ignore in their first film.

And that is a shame.

I really hope Halloween Ends will bring this story to a satisfying conclusion, a return to what made the 2018 Halloween film work well.

In the meantime we are left with a film that isn’t bad, but something worse.

A dull, if watchable film.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5

Review: Scream (1996) – 25th Anniversary Screening

Almost a year after the mother of her mother, Sidney Prescott and her friends are targeted by a killer who uses horror films and tropes as their inspiration…

Kevin Williamson, the writer of Scream grew up watching films. That is very clear watching Scream. Unlike, for example, Tarantino, Williamson uses his film references brilliantly, by having his characters talk about the horror movies that not only influence his story, but also acknowledge horror films and they are effectively living one. He doesn’t go for obscure references, instead sticking to those that most of the audience will get too, both horror and non-horror fans alike. His script sets out the rules of horror films, especially slasher films and then plays around with them in very clever and also fun ways.

The cast are great. Neve Campbell plays Sidney and although she herself says she is not a fan of being scared, she is a very strong lead in the film. There is terrific support from Courteney Cox, as a Gale Weathers, a reporter covering the murders and with a history with Sidney after covering her mother’s murder. David Arquette plays Dewey, a deputy who tries to protect Sidney, with Rose McGowan as Tatum, Sidney’s best friend and Dewey’s brother and they are great support, along with Skeet Ulrich as Billy as Sidney’s boyfriend, Matthew Lillard as Stu, a friend and Tatum’s boyfriend and Jamie Kennedy as Randy, another friend and an expert on the rules of horror and explains them in one of the memorable scenes in the films. There are also cameos from Henry Winkler as the high school principal as well as Linda Blair and Wes Craven in rather familiar clothing and also Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary, a cameo that turned into something more in the sequels.

The late, great Wes Craven, who a couple of years before had directed the superb horror, New Nightmare which used the Elm Street films as a backdrop for its story, must have seen similar elements in Williamson’s script for Scream and you can see that in the direction and set pieces. Yes, they are as bloody and brutal as you might expect, even in 2021 Scream is still classed as an ’18’ in the UK, but what Craven brings here too is a sense of playfulness. He’s clearly having a lot of fun with the story and how he films it, with the camera prowling through houses as it follows characters. He’s helped by a score from Marco Beltrami, that he uses well indeed.

The opening of the film, of Casey (a small role played to perfection by Drew Barrymore) getting a series of phone calls that start fun, before becoming much more serious captures both sides of what Craven is attempting, the tension and playfulness brilliantly. In a number of ways, this is possibly the best scene in the film, not that the rest is bad, far from it, rather it is just so good.

Williamson’s story manages to keep its central mystery, who the killer is, very well indeed, right up to its reveal, thanks to dropping in enough clues and suspects to keeping the audience guessing.

And as with other parts of the film, it takes on the final ‘jump scare’ that most horror films of this type end on and again has fun with it.

I first saw Scream back in the cinema in 1996 on its original release. I loved it then. I haven’t revisited it much since then, but on the 25th anniversary in a packed cinema it was great to back and revisit a horror classic.

And it still bloody good fun.

Rating: **** out of 5

As an aside, before the screening of the film, one of the trailers shown was for the new film in the Scream series, called unsurprisingly Scream, which is due out in 2022. I can understand why they did show it, but in some ways, I wish they hadn’t as there may be some at one of these screenings who hadn’t seen the 1996 film and as a consequence, perhaps might have their enjoyement slightly tainted as they’d know who would survive before seeing the film.

Just a thought.

Review: Malignant (2021)

1993. At a clinic, a patient called Gabriel is such a threat that the Doctor’s decide to carry out a procedure on him. Thirty years later, a woman called Madison begins having visions of murders after her abusive husband is killed and she loses her baby…

James Wan has created or co-created three horror film series: Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. Personally, I think he is one of the best horror directors working today. He knows what works and what scares people watching horror films and while those films mentioned above are influenced by the horror films of the past, he successfully has updated aspects of classic horror for a new generation.

In the case of Malignant however, it is as if he’s dived head first into the horror genre of the 1980’s and then thrown everything at the screen to see what works.

As a consequence, horror fans can undoubtedly see influences from slasher films, giallo, thrillers such as 1990’s Fear, Basket Case and many others. The result of this is that most will figure out aspects of the plot. I did, but didn’t mind as I enjoyed the premise and found it entertaining enough…

And then the last act begins, secrets are revealed, all hell breaks loose and I sat there grinning like an idiot. Wan cuts loose with a trio of superb set-pieces as the violence, blood and gore get turned up to eleven! But then Wan, pulls a clever and I think brilliant moment at the end, ending the film in perhaps an unexpected way, but one that works brilliantly for the film. The violence is both brutal and bloody, in some ways a major departure for Wan, but it is staged and done very well indeed.

Wan came up with story along with Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper, with Cooper writing the screenplay. It’s as if they had looked at what their favourite horror films were and then mixed them up and this was the result.

The cast throw themselves fully into the insanity. Annabelle Wallis plays Madison and is damn good. Maddie Hasson plays Sydney, her sister and isn’t bad. George Young and Michole Briana White play the detectives investigating the murders and they aren’t bad either and there a good little supporting turns from Susanna Thompson, Ingrid Bisu and Jean Louisa Kelly. There are also two small, but powerful cameos from Mckenna Grace and Madison Wolfe.

The score from Joseph Bishara is as wild as some of the plot ddevelopments, the visual effects are well done and the film is well shot.

The very end of the film could imply there may be a sequel at some point. To be honest, if it goes as crazy as this film I wouldn’t mind that at all.

Malignant isn’t particularly scary and as I mentioned, it is clearly influenced by other horror films, but I didn’t care as I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Derivative? Undoubtedly. Utterly insane in the final act? Absolutely?

A lot of fun? Yes it bloody well is.

Rating: **** out of 5

Review: Prince Of Darkness (1987)

After the death of an elderly priest, a team of students and scientists are brought to the church where he lived to investigate a mysterious container kept within its basement….

After the box office disappointment of Big Trouble In Little China, which has subsequently become a big favourite among Carpenter fans, along with his battles with the studio while making it, John Carpenter moved away from big studios and made an agreement with Alive Films. While the deal gave Carpenter a small budget to work with, $3M at the time, in return he had total creative freedom on the films he would make.

The first film made under the deal was Prince Of Darkness.

One of the things Carpenter wanted to do with this film was make a horror film that was atmospheric and had a sense of dread throughout. On this level it succeeds. From the extended credit scene as characters are introduced along with the beginning of the story, to the very end, the sense of dread grips and doesn’t let go.

The writing is credited to a ‘Martin Quatermass’ although it was written by John Carpenter himself. Carpenter was a big fan of the work of Nigel Kneale, with whom he worked with on the early story and draft of what became Halloween III: Season Of The Witch. Kneale would take his name of the finished film, which was re-written. I imagine the use of Martin Quatermass by Carpenter, was a nod to Kneale’s work, which you can see to a degree in the story of Prince Of Darkness, which combines science with horror, something Kneale did brilliantly with his Quatermass stories. By all accounts however, Kneale wasn’t impressed with the homage.

The cast is headed by Donald Pleasence as a character only referred to as Priest. He brings his usual gravitas to the role, as does Victor Wong as Professor Birack who heads the team of students and scientists. Jameson Parker, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard and Dirk Blocker are among the actors playing the students and scientists inside, along with a small role for Alice Cooper was the leader of the street people outside, who fall under the influence of the evil being unleashed.

Thanks to a superb score from Carpenter (in association with Alan Howarth), which I rank as possibly his best film score, certainly the creepiest, he sets up the story and then turns it into a siege type film, though less against anyone trying to get in, more as those infected attack those who are not.

The film builds to an ending that I think works very well.

It’s brilliantly directed by Carpenter, both in terms of the main story but also in the little moments, the video tape dreams that those inside begin to have. These moments have always unsettled me and still do. They also lead into a very well time jump scare at the end.

Where I think Carpenter is less successful is with his characters. There is a small subplot of a relationship between two of the students, which hasn’t dated well and even when I first saw the film back on its original UK cinema release didn’t work then either, instead felt forced. Also, I have to say, I find Dennis Dun’s performance in this film annoying here, compared to his rather good performance in Big Trouble In Little China.

I have to be honest too and the quantum physics aspect of the story lost me. At times I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about. To be fair, it has never ruined my enjoyment of the film.

Prince Of Darkness is regarded as the second film of what is known as Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’, the others being The Thing and In The Mouth Of Madness. I’m a big fan of these films too. The Thing is my favourite John Carpenter film and I’m a big fan of In The Mouth Of Madness.

But Prince Of Darkness holds a special place in my love of Carpenter’s films. It was the first of his films I saw at the cinema. At the time I found it a very good, creepy horror film.

Even now, many years later, I still love it the same way.

Rating: **** out of 5

FrightFest Review: The Found Footage Phenomenon (2021)

A documentary looking at the history of found footage films and also looking at where they might go in future…

I’m a big fan of found footage films. If I’m asked, I think [REC] is the best and scariest one I’ve seen. But there are many in the genre I enjoy, The Blair Witch Project, The Devil’s Doorway, Paranormal Activity to name three. It’s a sub-genre of horror that done well can result in some very creepy and scary films.

However what writers and directors of this documentary, Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott do with this fascinating documentary is explore its origins, using filmmakers in the genre as wells film academics and this often heads into surprising ideas, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula in some ways being a ‘found footage’ novel or the opening of the horror classic, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and making the audience almost as complicit in the killings as the film’s killer.

Unlike the documentary Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror, The Found Footage Phenomenon isn’t as detailed, more focusing on the key films, or ones of note in the sub-genre.

As a consequence, while it does mention films like [REC], or speaks to a number of filmmakers such as Aislinn Clarke, the director of The Devil’s Doorway, the film focuses on Cannibal Holocaust (considered the first film of the type), The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, they key films and the influence on the films that followed, or indeed lack-off.

It’s also fascinating to seeing filmmakers talking about, perhaps dismissively to a degree, the efforts of major studios when they make films in the format, citing Cloverfield and the cop film, End Of Watch and how using recognisable actors or having a big budget behind it, in a way shatters the illusion, which I do think is a valid point. But at the same time, the influence of BBC TV’s Ghostwatch which caused a huge stir when broadcast and is cited by many filmmakers as an influence on their own found footage which is a genuine surprise

Throughout, among the filmmakers, literally a who’s who of found footage filmmakers, it is Alexandra Heller-Nicholas an author and academic on film, that proves key, offering insight and context about the films being talked about. It’s here we get mention of some of the more controversial films in the sub-genre, Megan Is Missing and Hate Crime, with their makers, James Cullen Bressack and Michael Goi explaining what they were trying to do with the films.

It’s a documentary that runs around 100 minutes, but could easily have been longer and still been fascinating to sit through. It may not have the depth of, for example Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched, but it is still an enjoyable, informative watch.

Well worth taking the time to uncover this one…

Rating: **** out of 5

Book Review: The Girl In The Locked Room

A girl has been in a locked room for a very long time. Another girl, who’s father is charged with restoring an old house, think she sees someone in a window, in a room that is locked…

Mary Downing Hahn is not an author I am familiar with. When I picked the book up in the shop, it was the premise that intrigued me. It’s only when you begin to read the book, you begin to understand that the book is more aimed at older children, or the young adult market, than at adults or, perhaps, the hardcore horror fan.

However, that being said, as a story aimed at that market, I think its a good one. The story, cutting between the girl in the room and Jules, the girl who has just arrived in the area, works well. The opening, of the girl in the room slowly forgetting things the longer she is in there, is well done indeed, as is the climax of the book.

Where the book didn’t work as well was in the middle as Hahn develops her story, adding depth to the characters, Jules, her parents and a friend she makes, Maisie. How she develops them, in a way telegraphs how a subplot of the story will end, long before the book gets there.

It’s also not that scary in truth. To be fair, the book might work as a good introduction to a teen interested in ghost stories or horror in general, but I did like the ending, how it plays out. I do believe ghost stories, done well, often have the right endings for their story and the one here, I felt was right for it.

This is the first book of Mary Downing Hahn I have read. A quick search revealed she has written thirty novels aimed at the Young Adult market. Obviously I can’t speak to them all, but based on The Girl In The Locked Room, she may be an author that anyone looking for books for their teens to read as an introduction to the horror market that is worth investigating.

Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

FrightFest Review: The Last Thing Mary Saw (2021)

A young woman who has been blinded, tells the story of the fate that befell her family…

Getting the tone and pacing of a film right is very important. If you are telling an all action film, you will likely want a fast paced film with big action set pieces every few minutes. If you are telling a drama where characters are more important that the story, it will move at a much slower pace.

But you need to have a story at that slower pace that is compelling. If not a slow moving film can become dull or worse, boring.

Thankfully, writer and director Edoardo Vitaletti’s film is very compelling indeed.

The story, as much a tale of forbidden love between Mary (Stefanie Scott), the eldest child in the family and Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman), the household’s maid as well as the central mystery, who killed the family and what happened to Mary’s eyes.

What’s very clever about the writing and direction from Vitaletti is that because the film takes its time, the building sense of dread slowly creeps up on you, the tension building until a truly astonishing last act mostly done in silence as the strands of the story collide in ways that will shock and surprise.

The performances are superb. Stefanie Scott and Isabelle Fuhrman are terrific as the young women who’s love in a way sets events in motion. There is a small but important role, well played by Rory Culkin, that of a stranger who turns up and his story too crosses into the final act. Judith Roberts plays the family Matriarch and she is both intimidating and frightening too. The other cast members, mostly unknown to me on the whole, are good in support too.

The film has a terrific score from Keegan DeWitt and is very well shot by cinematographer David Kruta. The look and feel of the film recalls films like The Beguiled (both versions), more perhaps a folk/gothic drama than horror, although there are touches of the supernatural in there.

It’s a very good film indeed, one that will reward patient audiences. It will draw you in from the beginning and not let you go until the credits roll.

And it may not let go even then.

Rating: **** out of 5

FrightFest Review: Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched (2021)

An in depth look at the subgenre of Folk Horror, in film and other media, from its beginnings right up to present day…

I’ve made no secret of the fact that The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General had an effect on me as a child on how to perceive film*. Up until then pretty much every film I’d seen had a ‘happy’ ending of sorts.

Until those two. Then I realised not everything ends happily.

As a film fan, I was stunned, but it only encouraged me to dig deeper into the horror genre as a consequence and among the ghost stories, the slasher films, possession stories, I became really interested in Folk Horror.

I’ve written before about the above films and also Blood On Satan’s Claw and how like others I consider them an ‘Unholy Trinity’ in horror**. They are often considered the pinnacle of Folk Horror film.

Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror, to give its full title, is divided into chapters, the first of which deals with this ‘Unholy Trinity.’ You can understand why, get the most famous films out the way first, then dive into other aspects of the genre. It’s a very clever move from writer and director of the documentary, Kier-La Janisse. After dealing with these films, Janisee then talks all manner of folk horror, both in books, in television and in film, not only in the UK but throughout the world.

With a vast assortment of ‘talking heads’ who are actors, writers, directors or simply knowledgeable, the depths of the documentary is astonishing. There are clips from many films just in passing, such as Picnic At Hanging Rock or Kill List, but also from Tv with the likes of Quatermass and The Stone Tape.

Janisse, has really explored the worldwide phenomenon of folk horror. There are many, many films here that not only I’d not heard of (and now want to go check out!) but also ones I perhaps wouldn’t have considered folk horror. From my own perspective, I may have a passing knowledge of folk horror in the UK, but to see how it is explored in the likes of Australia, the far east (Japan particularly) but also in the likes of Brazil was eye opening, some places you might not have thought of has having strong folk horror links.

Throughout the 3 hours and 14 minutes of the documentary, the various experts give fascinating insights making their points in both interesting but also easy to understand for the layman or casual watcher. I should also say, considering the running time, the documentary flies by, to such and extent I could easily have watched another 3 hours quite happily.

It’s a remarkable documentary, as I mentioned fascinating and insightful both for someone looking to get into folk horror and not knowing where to begin but I;m sure too for those who know a bit about the genre, there will be things new to them as well.

I cannot recommend Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror highly enough. It’s not only the best documentary I will see all year.

It’s one of the best films of the year.

Rating: ***** out of 5

*Here’s the piece I wrote about how The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General changed my views on film.

https://thefilmgrump.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-day-evil-wonand-changed-my-view-on.html

**Here’s my own views on the so-called ‘Unholy Trinity’ of folk horror.

Review: Censor (2021)

A woman who works as a film censor begins to unravel when she thinks an actress in a horror film is her missing sister…

What happens to someone if they are exposed to violent and horrible images day after day? Does it begin to affect them?

In 1984, the Video Recordings Act was passed in the UK. It basically meant that every film that was to be released on video for home viewing had to be certified by the BBFC, the film classification board in the UK. One of the reasons giving for passing the act, was the fear that exposure to the ‘violent and disturbing’ imagery in some films would have an effect on people at home, particularly the young. There were prosecutions of various films, a famous one involving The Evil Dead.

As a consequence, a number of films and video companies, that up until that point would put out any horror film they could get their hands on, vanished from video stores. The films that were submitted for a certification often suffered at the hands of the censors.

I have simplified this somewhat. Other, more expert writers and critics have talked about this in much more depth. It is a period worth reading about if it piques your interest.

I bring it up, in that Censor is set against this background to a degree.

Film Censor Enid spends her day watching films submitted for a certification, often violent horror films, noting what needs to be cut from the films in question to get a rating. But after her parents come to her to tell her they are having their missing daughter, Enid’s sister, who went missing as a child declared dead, Enid begins to unravel, especially when she sees an actress in a violent horror film that she becomes convinced is her.

This film, the feature debut of co-writer (with Anthony Fletcher) and director Prano Bailey-Bond has its roots in her short Nasty, which I am sure I have seen, though I can’t recall that much about it in truth. This film however, is a very good debut indeed.

The film captures the period very well indeed. There’s a moment where the Press are outside the Censor’s offices to demand an explanation when a film that they passed, is blamed for being an influence of a murderer. There was a lot of hysteria about film and its effect on people in that period and while the film only touches on it it does so well.

As the story progresses, as Enid begins to become obsessed with the actress Alice Lee, the film slowly changes. In some ways, an obvious comparison might be 8mm, the Nicolas Cage starring film about snuff films, but here Enid believes Alice (her sister?) is alive but in danger.

As Enid begins a journey into (film) hell, director Bailey-Bond uses lighting to show her journey. When we first see Enid, the lighting is dull, but as the story progresses, colour seeps in, to the point it begins to recall the work of Dario Argento. The film builds to a violent, surprising ending but one that will linger after the credits begin to role.

The film is anchored by a stunning performance from Niamh Algar as Enid. She is superb in capturing Enid as she begins to fall apart as her obsession in finding out the truth grows. There is good support from Michael Smiley as a slimy film producer along with Sophia La Porta as Alice and from the other members of the cast.

The film is very well shot by Annika Summerson and has a terrific score by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. The production does capture the period very well indeed. What violence is in the film is very well done, if brief.

I was very taken by Censor. I really started to get into film around the time the Video Recordings Act came into force and it is a period that does continue to fascinate me.

Much like this brilliant, disturbing horror film.

Rating **** out of 5

Review: Old (2021)

A group of tourists find themselves trapped on an isolated beach, a beach that seems to age them all rapidly…

M. Night Shyamalan made his name with the double whammy of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. He developed a reputation for stories that took their time and often, though not always ended with a twist. As is often the case, some twists were great, others less so.

Since The Village, his films too have been a mix of the great (Split) and the disappointing (The Happening). To his credit, Shyamalan does it himself, the writing, the directing and sometimes funding the movies himself to ensure he keeps control, the films for better or worse being his vision.

Old is a rarity for Shyamalan in that it is based on a graphic novel called Sandcastle by Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. Most of what he writes is original stories not ones based on other material. I haven’t read the graphic novel, it’s not one I’d heard of before seeing the film, but as a film premise I do like the mystery at its heart.

Where the film is perhaps less successful, story-wise, is when the reveal is made and we discover what has been going on and why. While it does work, to a degree, in the context of the film, I’m not sure it is a successful or truly satisfying explanation for what goes on. If anything, I feel it raises more questions than answers. Story-wise too, there are clear signposts for where plot details are revealed, but even then it feels when it comes, you have to wonder what took so long?

There are other issues too. The way Shyamalan shoots certain scenes is odd, the way he frames his shots. I can understand, to a degree, why he does it, when you consider the way the story logic works it kind of makes a bit of sense, but I do think he overuses that idea, that framing for his story.

The cast is headed by Gael Garcia Bernal, Rufus Sewell, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff. The performances aren’t that bad at times, with McKenzie and Wolff, having the difficult task of playing children who have aged, yet mentally haven’t.

While the mystery aspect is happening, the story does keep you on the hook. It’s when we get the reveals and answers that in some ways the story, and the film too, unravel. By the end, it has the feel of a film that has gone on too long. The final moments too, also add more questions than answers too. But to be fair, the film is well shot and the music is okay.

However, the lingering feeling left at the end is one of disappointment. Shyamalan has made some good films recently. Sadly, Old, much like its premise, will not age well.

Rating:** out of 5