This film tries to give a narrative about zombie old people some deeper meaning. And it fails miserably. Instead, it comes across as preachy and succeeds at offending the older population.
This review of the Netflix film Old People does not contain spoilers.
Written and directed by Andy Fetscher, Old People is a German zombie-ish horror film with a bizarre concept. In this latest Netflix horror story, a small town’s elders have had enough with today’s youth and decided to do something rather extreme about it.
Old People starts like any good horror film about zombie-like elderly should, with an older gentleman getting up from his wheelchair and crushing his home health aide’s skull. Then we get to meet our main characters: Ella (Melika Foroutan) and her two children, Laura (Bianca Nawrath) and Noah (Otto Emil Koch), returning to her hometown for her sister’s wedding. Ella’s ex-husband, Lukas (Stephan Luka) still lives in the small seaside town with his girlfriend, Kim (Anna Underberger), who just so happens to be a caregiver at the local nursing home, where Ella’s father resides.
The movie spends a lot of time in the first half introducing these characters and the dynamics between them. Kim is jealous of Lukas’s ex-wife, the kids would like their parents to get back together and of course, Ella was estranged from her elderly father who has now stopped speaking.
Actually, all the old people in town have completely stopped using words to communicate. All they do is stare at our leads. Those scenes are meant to be ominous, but it’s bordering on ridiculous. We also learn that the nursing home is severely understaffed and the residents are not being treated particularly well. By the end of the wedding, all hell breaks loose and every single older adult in town rises from their wheelchair, throws their oxygen tanks away, and starts murdering anyone who happens to be under 50.
Old People uses plenty of classic horror tropes. We have a creepy small town where something is off. There are unlikeable characters we can’t wait to see murdered. Jumpscares are on the menu.
And of course, a couple gets murdered for daring to have sex. The cherry on the cake is one Mike Myers-type older gentleman with superhuman strength that’s almost impossible to kill. (Made me wonder why such a strong man resides in a nursing home in the first place. He could easily live by himself in the middle of the Black Forest, chopping firewood and hunting bears for fun). It combines elements of the slasher and zombie genres to poor results. Despite the film’s attempt at creating tension, most of these efforts tend to fall flat. Some scenes that were supposed to be scary elicited uncontrollable laughter.
The problem with Netflix’s Old People is that it takes itself way too seriously. It keeps drumming in the “honor your elders” message over and over again, yet it doesn’t explain what caused these seniors to suddenly snap.
The movie presents all these murderous pensioners still perfectly capable of thinking and reasoning, so their actions make little sense. It tries to give a narrative about zombie old people some deeper meaning. And it fails miserably. Instead, it comes across as preachy and succeeds at offending the older population. Reaching old age doesn’t turn us into mindless mutes. At least, I hope not. I might come back to this review 40 years from now to give an update.
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