Horror boasts plenty of ‘creepy kid‘ movies for parents or people who just find half-sized humans scary. Alice, Sweet, Alice, The Omen, Children of the Corn, The Bad Seed – they all reminded us that being able to drive isn’t a perquisite for terror. Earlier this, Norwegian thriller The Innocents made itself a candidate for ‘best of’ end-of-year lists. While we’ve also seen lots of homicidal parents in horror movies, the genre doesn’t often position the elderly as central antagonists. That all changes with the latest Netflix release, the German-produced Old People. At present, only a handful of reviews are available for this ‘seniors on a rampage’ spin on zombie movies.
Single mom Ella, along with teen daughter Laura and young son Noah, have arrived for her sister Senna’s wedding. But the return to the countryside village where she grew up means confronting her past. She left her husband, Lukas behind to pursue her career. That separation – a source of resentment for Laura – estranged Ella from her father. Though the reunion with her sister offers some joy for the family, Ella’s distressed to learn her father now lives in a retirement home. Poor conditions, however, quickly become the least of her problems when something triggers a murderous rampage in the village’s elderly residents.
Old People Doubles Down on Its Social Commentary
Writer and director Andy Fetscher squares off with a big elephant in the room – can he make the elderly a source of terror? Following a tense, if not a bit disconnected, prologue, Fetscher spends much of the first act focused on the family drama that serves as the German thriller’s emotional core. Nothing about this family drama really stand outs. What Old People serves up is some familiar mother-daughter tensions, unresolved feelings between ex’s, and an insecure new girlfriend. Despite its recycled feeling, there’s enough here to make audiences invest in the characters. It helps that Fetscher isn’t afraid to put any of these characters into mortal danger. Moreover, the performances are uniformly strong and committed to the premise. On the surface, there’s nothing all that unique about Old People. But Fetscher manages to deliver a few surprises here and there.
What Old People serves up is some familiar mother-daughter tensions, unresolved feelings between ex’s, and an insecure new girlfriend. Despite its recycled feeling, there’s enough here to make audiences invest in the characters.
As for its premise, Old People eschews much in the way of any explanations. In fact, it’s often not clear if Fetscher intends for his geriatric killers to be ‘zombies’. Sometimes they’re primal forces of rage. Other times they’re articulating clear motivations and instrumental violence. The thriller references a bunch of movies including Cooties, Mom and Dad, The Children, and even The Crazies. Unlike say, Mom and Dad or Cooties, Old People plays its premise very seriously. Though it’s not always clear what’s happening or why, Fetscher doubles down on the social commentary. And it’s a timely one. A large aging population and poorly prepared social welfare system are speeding towards a very real problem. Fetscher just isn’t all that subtle.
Old People Overcomes Some Logical Inconsistencies With Mostly Consistent Suspense
For the most part, Old People does a surprisingly good job at drumming up suspense and some shocks. Of course there are a couple of problems that surface. First, Fetscher often spends too much time setting up the scares instead of actually executing them. We get lots of slow motion, misty backdrops, and spooky ‘things happening in the background’ moments. That is, Fetscher doesn’t pull the trigger quickly enough on some of these scenes. Second, Old People never really establishes what’s powering its elderly ‘zombies’. Specifically, we never really understand how sick and feeble characters suddenly become so effectively vicious. This isn’t to say the thriller needs to articulate the underlying causes. Rather there seems to be a lack of internal logic.
Fortunately, when Old People gets down to business, it’s a mostly effective ‘zombie’ thriller’ Everything about the movie looks good. Behind the camera, Fetscher knows how to frame his shots to maximize atmosphere. Though it never descends into the level of gore characteristic of 70s Italian and Spanish horror, Old People has more than a handful of shocking moments. Since Fetscher very early on establishes that no one is safe Old People also benefits from some genuine suspense. In addition, Fetscher paces everything quite well and crafts a handful of almost poignant emotional moments in the climax.
Old People Makes For Passable Horror If You Can Buy Into the Premise
Don’t go into Old People expecting anything you haven’t previously seen. While its premise borrows from Mom and Dad and Cooties, this German export plays the concept straight-faced. So you can either buy that geriatric zombies can overpower younger victims or it’s too much for you. For audiences who can turn their brain off, Old People delivers familiar goods when it’s not stuck in set-up mode. All of the performances are strong and Fetscher capably crafts some decent visuals. Maybe the social commentary feels heavy-handed. Still Old People makes for an inoffensive time passer for horror fans.