Old People (2022) Movie Review – It’s Night Of The Living Pensioners in this lukewarm horror satire

It’s Night Of The Living Pensioners in this lukewarm horror satire

In George A. Romero’s classic horror film Night Of The Living Dead, a group of people barricade themselves into an old house as a means of escaping the zombie horde that is clamouring for their blood outside. It’s not long before the zombies break through, however, and the unlucky few survivors of the attack begin to realise they have little chance of surviving the night.

Why bring up Romero’s masterpiece here? Well, in director Andy Fetscher’s new horror movie, Old People, there is a similar scene of terror, although it’s a group of bloodthirsty senior citizens that are trying to enter the house of the huddled survivors. As their frail old hands burst through a gap in the front door of the supposedly secure shelter, one can be reminded of the aforementioned horror classic. Sadly, Fetscher’s movie is nowhere near as terrifying or as good as that movie but in the same way that Romero used horror as a vehicle to raise the issue of racial injustice in our society, Fetscher uses horror to showcase the injustices that are meted out to our nation’s old people.

The movie begins with a statement that precedes the horrors that are to come.

“In times of yore, an avenging spirit was thought to inhabit old people. A dark power that took possession of the frailest members of the clan. And drove them into a seemingly blind rage.”

It can be assumed that this is simply a myth but for the characters in this movie, the dark legend starts to come true when the spirit takes hold of local senior citizens and causes them to go on a murderous rampage against the people of the community.

But why would an avenging spirit cause the elderly to act in such a way? The answer is linked to an ancient stone structure that warns of a curse that will be unleashed should anybody decide to break their family ties and abandon their elderly relatives. In typical horror movie fashion, it’s not long before this prophecy comes true as the old people of the small German town in this story are taken over by the spirit when they tire of being neglected by those who are supposed to care for them.

It’s bad news for Ella and her two kids, Laura and Noah when they return to the town for a wedding. After learning that her father was placed in a retirement home after she left for pastures new, Ella comes to realise that many other people also left their relatives behind in the care of the people who run the facility.

The scene is set for the town’s curse to take hold when the people at the home hear the music coming from the wedding celebrations. As they sit in squalid conditions, an orderly reminds them that they weren’t invited and this is the catalyst for the vengeful spirit that spurs them into violent action.

What follows is not unlike that of a zombie movie as the possessed seniors go on a murderous rampage against the people of the community. This includes Ella and her kids who are forced to take shelter when the ravenous retirees come after them. Do they fall victim to the aged citizens? Well, there will be no spoilers here but needless to say, Ella is forced to come to terms with the fact that she abandoned her elderly father several years earlier.

She isn’t the only one who has to reflect on her actions as Fetscher, who wrote and directed the movie, seemingly wants us to consider our attitudes toward the old people in our families and communities. Do we consider them to be a burden? Are we neglectful of their needs and wants? If you have ever been impatient with an elderly person, be that a family member or somebody else besides, you might want to reflect on your attitude and how that may have made the other person feel.

The people who run the care homes in our towns and cities should also hold themselves accountable if they have behaved badly towards their elderly residents in some way. As you will know already from stories in the media, care homes are often understaffed and in a poor condition, not unlike the nursing home that is featured in the movie.

Fetscher’s message is possibly directed at such homes as there have been occasions when staff members have treated their residents inhumanely.  This point is clearly made in the movie when the leader of the senior uprising says: “What do you see? A human being or an animal? You don’t know what we have seen in our all too brief lives. I’d rather die than continue living like an animal.”

I appreciate the messages that Fetscher is trying to convey and he should be applauded for raising them within the movie’s plotting. But as he has weaved them into an excessively gory horror movie, his messages are often undermined. It’s hard to reflect on the injustices that are being meted out to the elderly when we are confronted with scenes of nurses getting their heads smashed in with oxygen canisters and other such scenes of gruesome violence committed by the geriatric folk.

Not only does the movie stumble when trying to make points about senior abuse but it also falters as a horror tale. The home invasion sequence I mentioned at the beginning, with hands and axes bursting through a door, is creepy enough but there isn’t much else to raise the level of tension. There are no jump scares either so you might be disappointed if you’re expecting something quite terrifying from this one.

The dialogue doesn’t help matters as it rarely comes across as being realistic and the actions of some of the movie’s characters don’t always ring true either. These issues, compounded with the fact that the movie’s themes sit awkwardly with the scenes of bloody horror, mean that it’s a bit of a frustrating mess.

Ultimately then, the movie is something of a missed opportunity. There are lots of horror movies that contain messages that relate to the issues that are relevant to our society but this one doesn’t have a strong enough script to truly get its points across. As such, you might want to give this one a miss and watch The Amusement Park instead, a short film George A. Romero made outside of the Dead series back in the 1970s that works as a better (and more harrowing) example of how society mistreats the elderly.

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  • Verdict - 5.5/10

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