I (again) know I’m in the minority, but I had a blast and a half with M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old,” the horror movie about the beach that makes you get old. The premise is exactly the kind of nonsense that appeases me, an unapologetic consumer of Dumb B**** Juice™, but it was the dedicated commitment of Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Eliza Scanlen as “children in the bodies of 20-somethings” that completely won me over. There are very talented child actors playing the actual children in the film (Nolan River, Luca Faustino Rodriguez, Alexa Swinton, Kylie Begley, Mikaya Fisher, and Kailen Jude), but as this is a movie about a beach aging people into dust, we don’t spend a lot of time with them.
What we do have, however, are adults being directed to act like children, but in a way that feels authentic to the vulnerability and terror of a child undergoing severe physical and emotional changes. Wolff, McKenzie, and Scanlen never feel like “adults mocking children” the way it would be on a sketch comedy show, instead veritably expressing themselves in the same manner as a child, but in a much larger frame. Wolff in particular is downright magnificent to watch, completely throwing himself into the role of the world’s tallest 6-year-old.
Short of maybe Mike Flanagan, there’s absolutely no one else with as strong of a track record with young actors in horror as M. Night Shyamalan. If “Knock at the Cabin” is at all faithful to the novel “The Cabin at the End of the World,” there’s a good chance that Kristen Cui will join the esteemed ranks of young performers that absolutely shine in front of Shyamalan’s camera.
“Knock at the Cabin” arrives in theaters on February 3, 2023.