There has been no shortage of movies in recent years that remind me that the older I get the closer I am to becoming a ghastly horror trope to the youths. From ‘The Taking Of Deborah Logan’ to ‘X’ “oldsploitation” is truly having a moment. ‘The Elderly’ directed by Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez (this duo is known for 2021’s ‘The Passenger’) stands out from the pack as a bit of a grandparent uprising, reminding us that the outright dismissal of any generation can be dangerous. Much like children, the ramblings of the aged are often written off as confusion or silliness. But what if they see something the rest of us can’t? This is what Cerezo and Gómez are exploring in this film.
The Elderly (Spanish title: Viejos) starts with Manuel (Zorion Eguileor) dealing with the graphic death by suicide of his wife Rosa. Understandably he appears lost, unable to figure out his next steps–but something more is going on. Manuel’s family is rightfully concerned and his son Mario (Gustavo Salmerón) insists that Manuel move in with them. While his daughter Naia (Paula Gallego) is excited to spend more time with her grandfather, Mario’s wife Lena (Irene Anula), Naia’s stepmother, is steadfastly against this change in living situation. There are a lot of threads woven together in this narrative, as Manuel’s behavior becomes increasingly strange and aggressive tensions in the home rise. Concurrently a heatwave outside is reaching record breaking dangerous temperatures. The senior population all over the city seems to be acting as erratically as Manuel, with many of them repeating “Los Oigo” which translates to “I hear them.” While tensions rise in Manuel’s new home, grandparents all over the city are becoming increasingly aggressive and brutal…to others and themselves. Some seem to be attempting to avoid a looming fate while others feel as though they are sleeper cells on the precipice of activating. But what is actually going on with this elderly rebellion? Well that’s the part we can’t really get into without spoiling, but the payoff is a well earned and brutal surprise.
While this is all very creepy it is mostly written off as “old people being weird.” Only Lena seems to understand that something more is going on, something dangerous. She repeatedly tells Mario that she wants Manuel out of her house. Her concerns are dismissed by Mario while step-daughter Naia, who is close with her grandfather, increasingly views her as an adversary.
I really enjoyed the concurrent commentary of the dangers of dismissing the seemingly incoherent warnings of the elderly while also treating the concerns and cautions of women as hysterical overreactions. Add to this the rapidly rising temperatures bringing everyone’s tempers to a head while also making a quiet comment on climate change, and it might appear that this film has too many embedded messages. This commentary never feels heavy handed, in fact such a light touch is used that one could wonder if some of it is unintentional.
‘The Elderly’ is pushing back against the standard “old people are gross” and “old people are losing their minds, which is scary” tropes by uncovering the real horror of an entire generation of folks being ignored and essentially sacrificed. I don’t know if this script was written at the height of the pandemic, but the result certainly calls to mind the alarm many of us raised as we watched our elders sacrificed at the altar of “normalcy.“ All of this plays out against a sweaty, bloody backdrop as temperatures rise and the violence increases. When we realize that no one is safe we are left with that to ponder at the film’s end. Another excellent entry from this filmmaking duo!
‘The Elderly’ will be in theaters October 13th, 2023
REVIEW: ‘The Elderly’ Gives Us A Hot and Bloody Old Folks Rebellion