OLD MAN | ©2022 RLJEFilms

OLD MAN | ©2022 RLJEFilms

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Stephen Lang, Marc Senter, Liana Wright-Mark, Patch Darragh
Writer: Joel Veach
Director: Lucky McKee
Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date: October 14, 2022

As we see from the evocative painting by Vanessa McKee under the opening credits, OLD MAN is set in an isolated cabin in the woods.

Stephen Lang plays the old man of the title. He is sleeping alone in the cabin’s worn-looking bed when we meet him, wearing orange long johns that suggest a prison jumpsuit. He wakes up with a start, then begins searching for his missing dog, Rascal, who he accuses of disloyalty.

There is an unexpected knock at the door. It’s a young man named Joe (Marc Senter), who says he was hiking in the woods and got lost. The old man, not a trustful sort, holds a gun on Joe and asks questions.

Is Joe as innocent as he looks? Is the old man crazy, dangerous, or just very cautious? And what are either of them really doing way out here anyway?

Somebody has got to be more than they appear in this situation. Writer Joel Veach, director Lucky McKee and the actors all know this, and play things accordingly.

It’s a long way getting to the big reveal, but OLD MAN is entertaining, especially courtesy of Lang’s performance. Lang can go through gruffness, self-pity, menace, warmth, grief, and pretty much every other aspect of human emotion in a split second without us ever once wondering how he gets from one to the other. Senter makes a solid foil who is up to the demands of his role.

The production design by Lili Teplan has lots of nooks and crannies that keep us on our toes, wondering if we’re seeing clues or just more signs of the old man’s eccentricities. It looks plausibly like the domain of someone who’s not too concerned about tidying up, but doesn’t have enough on hand to make a real mess.

OLD MAN is mostly a one-set, two-hander, despite the presence of some supporting players late in the game. Like other films fitting this description, it has a couple of lagging beats. It also has a problem that doesn’t have an easy or obvious fix. The big reveal comes late in the game. Once we know what’s going on, the movie can’t cut away early, or else it would be annoyingly elliptical. On the other hand, letting things play out as they do and confirming what we’ve gleaned doesn’t add anything to our insight or our feelings.

Still, OLD MAN is worth watching for Lang’s tour de force, and for the economy of the filmmaking. Most of this bottle horror show works, and that’s worthy of admiration.

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