The Elderly (FANTASTIC) Makes Use of Old Fears for New Audiences
Title: The Elderly
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Raúl Cerezo, Fernando González Gómez
Writer: Raúl Cerezo, Rubén Sánchez Trigos, Javier Trigales
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Starring: Gustavo Salmerón, Paula Gallego, Irene Anula, Zorion Eguileor
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Spain is experiencing the hottest summer on record. As the heat wave intensifies, the senior citizens of one city begin to behave strangely. What is written off as the result of old age slowly turns into something more sinister when they exhibit more antisocial and violent behavior. After her grandmother dies by suicide, Naia (Paula Gallego) watches out for her grandfather (Zorion Eguileor) with deep ferocity and love. Her father, Mario (Gustavo Salmerón), wants to do right by his father but is not equipped to help him all the while his wife, Lena (Irene Anula), is both irritated and afraid of him. Things heat up even more when he declares that he is going to kill them all tomorrow.
Slow burning Spanish sci-fi horror builds to a climatic finale dripping with social commentary on the horrors of aging in The Elderly.
The fear of aging is common yet is made to be a dirty secret in greater society. The Elderly personifies this fear by transforming the country’s population of senior citizens into crazed killing machines. The response of each character reflects different challenges that older people face. Lack of connection, elder abuse, and disappearing from their loved one’s lives too soon, each of these issues are directly highlighted in The Elderly.
Different characters respond to the grandfather’s mental decline. Mauro’s love for his father is true but it comes across as more of a duty than anything else. This has to do with the recent loss of his mother, but it’s clear they are not that close. They rarely spend time together, and what little time they do spend Mauro is more of a caretaker. Naja is easily the most supportive of all the family. She spends time with her grandfather on her own volition, she advocates for him to be independent and to have a place in the family and trusts him to do things on his own. The most resistant and closed off, Irene, wants nothing to do with the grandfather. This leads to her getting frustrated with him more easily and eventually succumbing to the urge to attack and berate him for not behaving completely normally for an adult man.
An interesting connection between technology and elderly people is highlighted in the film, which showcases how technology hurts older generations. Compelled to physically insert various electronic devices inside of them and interacting differently with those mediums amplifies the terror of the film. The repetition of “I’m going to kill you tomorrow” works almost like a terrible baby boomer meme getting traction on social media. Once repeated enough and with plenty of conviction, it becomes true. All of this can be taken as a deeper metaphor of how technology can make the lives of older folks more difficult or be used as a weapon against them.
Slow burns have the tendency to fade into nothing with little payoff, but thankfully The Elderly takes a more dutiful approach before ending with a bang. As the film heats up physically in their world and metaphorically when it comes to escalating tension, the color pallet becomes more visibly inspired by fire. Oppressive oranges and reds paint the sky an unbearable shade that reflects the uncomfortable reality of the citizens of this city.
Swelteringly tense and well-made, The Elderly is a solid film that takes an unusual concept to make something new with several highlights. There are convincing performances all around but Zorion Eguileor as the grandfather is the best. He maneuvers through multiple personalities to portray cognitive decline with respect and nuance. Not much is needed in terms of effects, but what little is done is done right. The glowing technology adds a visual flair to an otherwise muted film.
It takes its time to reach its point, but the payoff is far worth the wait in this Spanish treat. Combining the real-life horrors of aging, from unsupportive family members to unhelpful systems, with the terrifying possibilities of science fiction, The Elderly paints an apocalyptic vision of the world where elders are given a reason to push back. Strong directorial vision, excellent writing, and solid performances make this import one to look out for once it hits stateside. For those asking themselves how The Elderly can take so many by surprise, it’s best advised to seek out the film to see why.
Overall Score? 6/10