Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 13th, 2022
Old Man (Lucky McKee, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
Towards the beginning of Halloween season comes Old Man, from director Lucky McKee (Kindred Spirits), starring Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe) in the titular role. With a very small supporting cast of Marc Senter (The Free Fall), Patch Darragh (The First Purge), and Liana Wright-Mark (Ocean’s Eight), the film does a decent job telling a compelling drama. Unfortunately, where Old Man falls short is in following a coherent narrative structure. Old Man tells the story of a man (Lang) living his life alone and off of the land. When a young traveler Joe (Senter) stumbles upon the old man’s cabin, he is kept as a prisoner/guest and caught in a battle of wits with a hostile host. As the two talk, the old man realizes that things are not always what they seem.
This is where the film becomes conflicted. At its start, Old Man launches a rather thrilling scenario, with high stakes for Joe as he struggles to stay safe and survive his night with the old man. I was very much reminded of Don’t Breathe and Lang’s frightening antagonist, and the man-versus-man scenario presented gave me The Lighthouse vibes. There is also some frightening imagery that gives the film a tortured feel, much like the trapped and claustrophobic sensation found in one of the Saw movies (hold the grotesqueness!).
Then, suddenly, a major plot twist in the film turns Old Man into an unwanted psychological thriller. All is not as it appears for the old man, and unfortunately this sends the plot into a strange and unexplained avant-garde experience where all the other characters become figments of imagination. For me, this unravels an already established (and well executed) plot line and makes it a completely different, less-than-original premise. Sadly not all the introduced ideas make complete sense, and the open-ended conclusion leaves the viewer unsatisfied and needing more information.
In the end, this small feature film has terrific initial elements, but tries to up the stakes with complicated ideas and metaphysical sequences. Abandoning its well-established character study, Old Man soon becomes about the struggles of a psychologically challenged man with a troubled history. While I admire a good plot twist, I will always wonder what Old Man would have been if it had stuck to its script and presented a thriller grounded in realism.