[Popcorn Frights 2022 Review] OLD MAN
OLD MAN l Popcorn Frights
Humans require interactions. Even the biggest curmudgeon in existence needs someone or something in their life. Engaging with another creature helps combat loneliness and a whole cavalcade of emotions, but most of all it helps people learn more about the world and even themselves. Small talk can only go so far when trying to stimulate the mind and senses, so what humanity really needs for survival are stories! Real stories, completely fabricated stories, or stories which fall somewhere in between all help humans grow mentally and emotionally. Movies, at their core, tell a story, but some movies actually show people sharing the art of storytelling.

A couple of years ago genre fans got the very humorous Scare Me, which showed how people tell stories to stave off boredom. Lucky Mckee (May, The Woman) also revolves his new film around stories. Playing at Popcorn Frights, OLD MAN shows how two strangers stuck deep in the woods discover how sharing intimate tales not only helps pass the time but can unlock dangerous surprises.

The best way to enter this film is to know as little as possible. I will throw some breadcrumbs out to you, but you are going to have to wander the woods by yourself. Deep in the Great Smokey Mountains sits a forgotten cabin. This hidden property exists far away from civilization and does not have a proper toilet or any of the other homey amenities we take for granted. What it does have is an old man who misses his dog and has some deeply hidden secrets. He does not take kindly to people knocking on his door. So, when the very lost Joe who (because of a lack of options) must take shelter with the unfriendly and possibly murderous old man, the audience already fears for the safety of the naïve wanderer.

Presented like a Bergman Kammerspiel film, director McKee and debuting writer Joel Veach create an interesting story in which they highlight the talents of Marc Senter (The Lost) as the lost hiker and Stephen Lang (VFW, Don’t Breathe) as the title character. These very different men exist in an isolated setting and we become trapped with them as we observe how their conversation descends into violence and hostility as past discretions become revealed.

Stephen Lang has definitely become the go-to for when a script calls for a completely unhinged old guy, and he plays the part well from his immediate and abrupt appearance on screen. Bewildered and confused, he stumbles around his small cabin as he holds an unsettling conversation with himself and presents to the audience as a rambling madman. Even though the film takes place almost entirely within one location, the audience will still stay mesmerized by the dramatic storytelling of the two main characters which become intensified with passionate (and sometimes even funny) dialogue. The camera remains concentrated on Joe and the old man, through the use of close-ups and medium shots which puts all the emphasis on the characters and narrative, which to some audiences might sound like a torturous watching experience, but do not let the lack of action dissuade you. The purposeful focus on the two men lets the cabin blur into the background and we become forced to hang on to their every word.

Aside from strong writing and stand-out performances, the director also uses an interesting palette to direct the attention of the viewers and to provide future character development. The old man appears dressed head-to-toe in fairly bright red long underwear. Joe on the other hand presents with a brand new and pristine yellow jacket (despite supposedly tramping through the woods for hours). Lang’s red symbolizes aggression, strength, and virility, while Joe’s yellow denotes sickliness and cowardice. Dressed in very distinct primary colors helps them stand out from the drab interior of the cabin and drives the viewers to specifically focus on the two characters and ignore the background. McKee uses a soft focus to blur out the setting to make the scenes more private between the old man and Joe as everything literally fades into the background.

I would love to see more of Lucky McKee on the big screen and hope this movie not only gives him more attention in the genre but also creates a Lucky resurgence and gets people interested in his previous films. The direction, writing, and cinematography of OLD MAN all combine to make a very compelling film, but the clincher is definitely Lang and Senter as they show how their stories invoke jealousy, anger, and fear.

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