Movies

Is M. Night Shyamalan’s Old Scary or Just Goofy?

Our highly scientific Scaredy Scale helps you determine whether new movies are too scary for you.

a ticking meter is superimposed over gael garcia bernal's face
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal.

For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.

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The latest movie to step up to the scale is M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, a horror thriller that traps a group of vacationers on a beach where they discover that they’ve begun to age at an alarming speed. Though that may or may not sound like the kind of nightmare fuel you need to tackle with a Scary Scale, Old actually does go to some pretty frightening places. How frightening? Read on.

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A chart titled “Suspense: How much will you dread the next kill or jump scare?” shows that Old ranks a 7 in suspense, roughly the same as Jaws, and two points higher than The Sixth Sense. The scale ranges from The Joy of Painting (0) to Alien (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal.
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Yes, the main question hanging over Old is, “Hey, what’s going on here?” But the second big motor driving events is arguably, “In what horrible way is someone going to die next?” The delightful (well, “delightful”) thing about Old is that the deaths are wildly varied and all at least a little unpleasant, and the overarching sense of dread that comes with knowing the characters are running out the clock means that there’s a very potent sense of suspense all the way through the movie.

A chart titled “Gore: the Ick Factor” shows that Old ranks an 8 in goriness, roughly the same as Alien, and three points higher than The Sixth Sense. The scale ranges from Singin’ in the Rain (0) to the Saw franchise (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal.
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Body horror is Old’s raison d’etre, and boy, oh boy, does it get gross. The movie, itself based on a graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, is pretty comparable to the work of famed horror manga artist Junji Ito (Uzumaki, The Enigma of Amigara Fault) when it comes to some of its most upsetting sequences. There’s also some surgical gore, as well as a few scenes of violence that are only more upsetting for the way the beach’s time shenanigans alter how the wounds heal after they’re inflicted.

A chart titled “Spookiness: How much will it haunt you after the movie is over?” shows that Old ranks a 7 in spookiness, roughly the same as Psycho, and one point higher than The Sixth Sense. The scale ranges from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (0) to The Exorcist (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal.
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Some of the images that Shyamalan conjures up will stick with you for how inventively awful they are. As a result, though the idea of ending up on a time-distorting beach isn’t too likely to haunt you once the credits roll, you may still have a few nightmares about the horrors that Shyamalan has conjured up. The gore and the spookiness work hand in hand in this respect—there’ll be no forgetting some of these deaths.

A chart titled “Overall: This is even more subjective, depending on what kinds of scares get you the most” shows that Old ranks as a 6 overall, roughly the same as Jaws, and one point higher than The Sixth Sense. The scale ranges from Paddington (0) to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal.

All in all, Old is less scary than the sum of its parts. It’s still extremely effective at getting under your skin, but it lands more in the fun-scary camp than the scary-scary one. The movie isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s not an impossible gauntlet, either, as the mystery of what’s going on—and Shyamalan’s preoccupation with mortality, especially with regards to watching your kids grow up—is really what’s front and center.

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