As implicitly promised, Universal just dropped the first teaser for M. Night Shyamalan’s Old. This is the first Shyamalan movie adapted from previous material and the first Shyamalan flick to get a Super Bowl ad since The Last Airbender. Let’s hope this adaption of Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters’ Sandcastle graphic novel works out better than that infamous Nickelodeon adaptation. Of course, ghastly reviews and fan displeasure aside, The Last Airbender still nabbed a $69 million Thurs-Mon opening weekend over Independence Day 2010, showing that Shyamalan never really stopped being a marquee filmmaker.

Of course, there’s a difference between a $150 million, PG-rated kid-friendly action fantasy based on a Nick toons animated series and what I presume is a partially self-financed, over/under $20 million, PG-13 horror flick. Nonetheless, to the extent that Blumhouse’s The Visit (a $5 million found-footage horror comedy paid for with Shyamalan’s After Earth fees) announced an artistic comeback (while also containing what I’d argue is his best plot twist), the last two flicks (Split and Glass) both pulled $40 million Fri-Sun debuts, not that far off from the $50 million debut of The Visit.

That was back when he was on top of the world and helming $40-$80 million “not based on anything” studio pictures and positioning himself as the next Spielberg. That was also over 16 years ago, and the industry has very much changed since then. With all the talk about how Chris Nolan’s Tenet was a test for post-Covid moviegoing and the potential of big-scale Hollywood originals, Shyamalan’s first four features (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Visit) were themselves ridiculously successful “not based on anything” thrillers right before such a thing became an endangered species. 

I have to assume it’s no coincidence that Shyamalan is adapting a source implicitly about time and aging right as the former wunderkind as turned 50 years old. The guy whose The Sixth Sense opened to stellar reviews and a boffo $26 million opening weekend on his 29th birthday is now old enough to have a daughter who pitches in to direct episodes of his Apple+ TV show Servant. I was weeks away from heading to college when I saw The Sixth Sense. I now have three kids between the ages of five and 13.

This thriller apparently about a place where folks are rapidly aging feels like a meta-commentary on both Shyamalan’s existence as an older filmmaker and about how we fetishize youth or expect the young guns to make the same kind of art that made them stars in the first place. All due respect, the Tim Burton who made Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands is not the same man who directed Dumbo and Big Eyes. Ditto Eddie Murphy, who is now two years older than James Earl Jones was when the first Coming to America opened in 1988.

Beyond that, this indeed looks pretty damn creepy, with a strong cast to boot. As for Shyamalan’s mixed track record, I loved The Visit and can only hope that he’ll be back in prime form now that he’s scratched that Unbreakable sequel/threequel itch once and for all. As the commercial optimistically states, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old is coming only to theaters this summer and is currently slated for July 23.

This summer, visionary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unveils a chilling, mysterious new thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.

The film stars an impressive international cast including Golden Globe winner Gael García Bernal (Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle), Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread), Rufus Sewell (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle), Ken Leung (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending), Abbey Lee (HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Aaron Pierre (Syfy’s Krypton), Alex Wolff (Hereditary), Embeth Davidtz (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), Emun Elliott (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), Kathleen Chalfant (Showtime’s The Affair) and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit).

Old is a Blinding Edge Pictures production, directed and produced by M. Night Shyamalan, from his screenplay based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters. The film is also produced by Ashwin Rajan (Glass, AppleTV+’s Servent) and Marc Bienstock (Glass, Split). The film’s executive producer is Steven Schneider.

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