Thursday, October 13, 2022

Old Man, Starring Stephen Lang

What will soak your butt faster, the storm outside the cabin, or the moonshine inside? The mason jar of “old mule” (it has a kick) comes courtesy of your unstable and standoffish host. He is a rather crusty cuss, who must have a reason for isolating himself in the Smoky Mountain woods in Lucky McKee’s Old Man, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

At least for now, the old man will simply be known as “Old Man.” When Joe, the lost hiker, knocks on his door, he introduces himself with a shotgun in his face. The Old Man is distrustful, especially considering how vague Joe’s story is. However, he would not turn out a traveler in need, especially with a storm approaching.

As they settle in over some ‘shine, the old man tells violent anecdotes that may or may not be true and Joe confesses to some of the personal problems he was hoping to escape. Eventually, things veer into folkish horror territory, when their conversation turns towards local native lore, which may or may not explain what is going on.

Experienced cult film fans might have a general idea where the film is headed, but McKee brings it all together pretty effectively. This has to be his best film since he contributed to the anthology film
Tales of Halloween. The film is largely two people talking, but McKee maintains the claustrophobic tension nicely.

Of course, the key to it all is Stephen Lang’s riveting performance as the Old Man. He is definitely building on his cranky old horror guy persona established in
VFW and the Don’t Breathe films, but he covers a much broader and more intense emotional spectrum as the Old Man. He goes to some dark places. Frankly, it is easy to imagine this film depended on getting him, because it is hard to picture anyone else in the role.

Be that as it may, as Joe, Marc Senter contributes critical support, playing-off Lang, quite effectively, in some ways that would be spoilery to reveal. Thanks to both of them, the two-hander really works. Two other cast-members appear via flashbacks and anecdotes, but it would still be easy and economical to adapt Joel Veach’s screenplay for the legit stage.

There have been films like
Old Man before, but Lang and Senter make it feel fresh and creepy. The design team also created quite an evocative set with the Old Man’s cabin. You can practically smell the mustiness. Recommended for fans of horror in a Twilight Zone bag, Old Man opens tomorrow (10/14) at the Lower Manhattan Drafthouse.