Here is an unexceptional psychological horror from director Lucky McKee that feels dated and clunky, with some fairly ropey acting – or maybe that is down to the shaky lines put into the actors’ mouths. It only comes alive after a freaky plot twist at the end, but even that left the hairs on the back of my neck unprickled, the carpet under my feet unpulled.
Stephen Lang plays a cranky codger known only as Old Man who lives in the remote Smoky Mountains wilderness. The set design of his wooden cabin is distractingly inauthentic; it’s like an Ikea store display that has been done up in hicksville chic. Old Man has woken up in a filthy temper; first his dog, Rascal, pees on the floor, and then there is a knock at the door. Old Man shoves his shotgun into the face of the stranger standing outside. “Do as I say, or you’ll end up like her,” he growls, jabbing the gun at a stuffed wildcat on the wall.
The rest of the film is a two-hander between Old Man and the young guy, a hiker – or so he says – called Joe (Mark Senter). It plays out as guessing game, leaving us to wonder which of these men is a dangerous psychopath. The obvious choice is bitter, deluded Old Man with his toxic rants about everything from his ex-wife to Bible salesmen. But then, you wouldn’t bet against Joe: his clean-cut wholesome politeness makes him an ideal movie psycho-killer.
Both men are hiding something, evasive and shifty-eyed. Everything falls into place after the plot twist ending. But the trouble is that for the hour-and-a-bit of running time before that, the movie lacks anything like the intensity or claustrophobia required to carry off a two-hander. Still, I didn’t see the twist coming, even though others have described it as being so glaring you can see it from space.
• Old Man is released on 5 June on digital platforms.