M. Night Shyamalan is back and this time he’s going to the beach, and believe me, it’s no picnic! After his last iffy movie, Glass, which tied up his superhero trilogy, M. Night returns to his horror roots like The Visit and The Happening. Hmmm, any psychotic killer trees out there?
Inspired by the Swiss graphic novel, Sandcastle, you probably already know the story, thanks to the movie trailer that tells you the entire plot: a bunch of people on a beach suddenly start to age quickly. But, there’s more. We start at the luxurious Anamika Resort in the Caribbean (?) where we meet our cast of eclectic characters who, as decided by the resort manager (Gustaf Hammarstan), are selected to go to a super-cool secluded beach that is reserved for extra special guests. I mean, how bad could it be when their bus driver is the film’s director pulling an Alfred Hitchcock cameo?
Anyway, they are the Cappa family: father Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his seriously ill wife, Prisca (Vicky Kreips), plus their precocious kids, 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) & 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton), high & mighty doctor Charles (Rufus Sewell), his trophy wife, Chrystal (Abbey Lee), their adorable little daughter, Kara (Kyle Bailey), and their mother-in-law (Kathleen Chalfant). There’s also male nurse Jarin (Ken Leung) and his epileptic psychologist wife, Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird). Plus, a rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) who was already there when they arrived. After a few hours, things go very bad as, you guessed it, their bodies start to age rapidly. . . although the aging rules are kinda strange. Their skin and bones age, but their hair doesn’t grow at all? And some people age much faster than others? Why?
The kids are the first to show the weird effects from the beach (or the water or the cliffs) as Trent (Alex Wolff) is suddenly eleven and Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie) is sixteen which, naturally, freaks out their parents. Leaving isn’t an option, as the cave entrance won’t let them exit the beach. Jarin, doing some quick math deduces that they’re all aging days per hour, as one by one, each one falls victim to one calamity or another. Pretty soon, Maddox (Embeth Davidtz) is an adult, along with her brother, Trent (Emon Elliot), who has taken a fancy to older Kara (Eliza Scanlen). How much of a fancy? Well, let’s just say Kara goes through the world’s fastest pregnancy. Ever!
As you might expect, this adult version of The Lord of the Flies descends into chaos as everyone has an idea about getting off that damn beach, but SO many crazy things keep happening to prevent them. *SPOILER ALERT AHEAD* If you are familiar with M. Night’s previous work, you’ll weep as his famous “what a twist!” ending is delivered right on schedule, giving you flashbacks to his other film, The Village. But what can you expect from the guy who wrote, produced, directed, and stars in his own movies? Intriguing as the set-up is and as interesting as it could have played out, the movie was marred by M. Night’s dreadful script and bizarre camerawork.
Let’s face it, M. Night Shamalama-dingdong is no Aaron Sorkin when it comes to writing stellar dialogue and plotting, as you can tell in scenes where people say & do the dumbest things at the weirdest possible moments. The dialogue here is just awful. Seriously, who talks like this? Then you have his, shall we say, grandiose idea of camerawork? I’m guessing he wanted to ‘experiment’ with this movie, ’cause he went with stuff like extreme close-ups, deep focus pulls, swinging/spinning cameras (like Brian DePalma uses), very odd POV steadi-cam shots, and many others. Geez, Louise! You’re not a film student, you’ve done this sort of thing before, remember? And with better success!
The only thing M. Night got right was the cast. Everyone (except for the director) gave a decent enough performance, but special kudos to Wolff & McKenzie, who maintained their child-like persona as they aged. In fact, many of the faces are new, or ones you haven’t seen for a while. Sewell as a looney doctor is a nice turn for him, and both Luxembourg actress Krieps & Mexican actor Bernal are quite good. Although, having to deliver some of the worst dialogue around doesn’t help much! This movie had SO much potential that, if this material had been given to a better filmmaker–say Jordan Peele or James Wan–it could have turned out much, much better.
**Now showing in theaters
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
There are Trekkies, LOTR’s, and Potterheads. I’ll confess, I’m a “zoner”; I love all things Twilight Zone, and I’m talking about the true, original 1960 TV series, not the abominations that followed afterward trying to capitalize on the namesake. THIS was an example of plans gone awry.
The brainchild of John Landis & Steven Spielberg, this anthology of TZ stories has its good points and bad, most notoriously known for the horrific, tragic deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two little Vietnamese children while Landis was filming his episode. Overlook the cartoonish It’s A Good Life episode, as it’s not very good, but check out the two outstanding episodes: the remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with an amazing John Lithgow, and Spielberg’s reimagining of Kick The Can.
Kick The Can stars the wonderful Scatman Crothers as the enigmatic Mr. Bloom, an elderly man who checks into Sunnyvale Retirement Home where the old people there just sit around, watching the grass die. Almost immediately, Mr. Bloom starts to liven things up, asking the others questions about themselves, their lives, and their childhood. Many are loving it, except for cranky, curmudgeon Mr. Conroy (Bill Quinn) who doesn’t like Mr. Bloom “stirring things up”. One evening, Mr. Bloom whips out a shiny new tin can and invites several of the inmates to play “kick the can” outside.
Five of them agree and, while playing, suddenly age backward into little kids! Mr. Conroy wakes up and, thinking the worst, tells the house superintendent (Priscilla Pointer) his roommates have flown the coop! However, the seniors realize that being a kid again ain’t all that great and wish to be old again, but with a more youthful outlook on life. They age back up. . . except for Mr. Agee (Murray Matheson), who loves being a tween again and leaves, but not before telling Mr. Conroy what he’s missing! In the end, Mr. Bloom leaves for another old folks home as Mr. Conroy is seen kicking a can, waiting for the magic to happen to him.
Yes, this movie wasn’t all that good, but wasn’t all that bad either, not when you have episodes like this one. You can see Spielberg’s directorial hand all through this with the camera angles, up close lens, and yellow filters to symbolize the aging of the actors. It’s really masterful storytelling with a whimsical spin to it and leaves you (unlike the other stories) with a good feeling inside afterward.