BAXTER — Time stops for no one. That’s just a fact of life — and death.

“Old” is a new release about the grim passage of time, and the plot actually accelerates it with a setting and characters that mysteriously age rapidly on a secluded paradise-billed beach.

The latest horror movie from M. Night Shyamalan, director of the blockbuster “The Sixth Sense,” is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.

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Shyamalan wrote the screenplay in which the characters don’t grow old gracefully or who don’t get to experience the welcomed milestones of a life well-spent but who are aged shockingly and suddenly without a clear explanation or an apparent solution.

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The Philadelphia-based director returns to his roots with “Old” by helming another psychological thriller like the 1999 motion picture that starred Bruce Willis and a young Haley Joel Osment.

“Old” is a feature film loosely based on the Swiss graphic novel “Sandcastle” by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters. A family experiencing marital problems anchors the screenplay in the motion picture with peripheral characters included in the hellish feeling of entrapment.

The remnants of a dilapidated boat are on a secluded beach. Photo by Mihail Minkov on Unsplash.com
The remnants of a dilapidated boat are on a secluded beach. Photo by Mihail Minkov on Unsplash.com

“It’s only a matter of time” states the tagline for the drama, which is rated PG-13 and tantalizingly asks the existential question, “What would you do if you knew for sure you had only a certain amount of time left to live?”

It’s in that question where the film’s universal appeal lies, I think, as well as tapping into that primal fear of aging — who among us isn’t afraid of growing old? And not just growing old but aging quickly without explanation or obvious cause, and with all the infirmities and frailties associated with it?

The ensemble cast in the Alfred Hitchcock-like motion picture distributed by Universal Pictures shares its cinematic DNA with “The Twilight Zone,” right down to its claustrophobic setting, prevalent sense of dread and seemingly inexplicable forces at work in the body horror film.

“Growing old isn’t for the faint of heart,” it’s been said, and no truer sentiment has been expressed, especially as we have more candles on our birthday cake than maybe we’re all comfortable admitting to ourselves with each passing year.

Time is the enemy in the nearly two-hour movie that is more of a slow burn than horrifically graphic even though the characters’ anxiety and despair are palpable, and it’s a race against time whether they can figure out the cause of their problems or escape the beach.

The incoming tide threatens to overtake an hourglass on the beach. Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash.com
The incoming tide threatens to overtake an hourglass on the beach. Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash.com

The chilling motion picture manages, to my surprise, to include touching and bittersweet scenes between those who are near the end of their lives and those who have a few moments more. But it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan production without a twist ending that he’s known for. And for fans of that sort of thing, the Indian-American doesn’t disappoint with another twist in “Old.”

Shyamalan’s track record at the box office and with critics has been hit or miss after the incredible success of “The Sixth Sense,” a supernatural blockbuster that made him a household name, a celebrated filmmaker who has experienced a resurgence or comeback of sorts of late.

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“Split,” another psychological horror or thriller released in 2016 about multiple personalities and “The Visit,” a 2015 horror-thriller about mysterious grandparents who act oddly to their grandchildren, represent Shyamalan’s best work in recent years.

(Shyamalan again makes his trademark cameo in “Old” as the shuttle driver who takes the doomed from the resort where they are staying to the remote beach that, for many, ends up to be their final destination and resting place.)

The remnants of a boat slowly erode on a secluded beach. Photo by Mihail Minkov on Unsplash.com
The remnants of a boat slowly erode on a secluded beach. Photo by Mihail Minkov on Unsplash.com

There are some loose ends in “Old,” so those looking for a nice-and-neat or tidy ending of that of a traditional Hollywood blockbuster should possibly be prepared, but it’s been said it’s not the destination but the journey, and for a movie about rapidly aging, “Old” takes its sweet time.

One of the implicit themes of “Old” is to live in the moment or the practice of mindfulness, where one is not so much distracted by the past or worries about the future, especially since one cannot change the past and predict the future, especially on this tropical holiday.

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“Old” holds a 50% approval rating among critics and a 51% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television. The ratings may be an indication perhaps of how polarizing Shyamalan’s twist endings that he’s known for can be.

The critics consensus at RottenTomatoes.com: “‘Old’ has no shortage of interesting ideas — and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's uneven execution will intrigue or annoy viewers, with little middle ground between.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.