M. Night Shyamalan’s Old Based On The Graphic Novel Sandcastle Explained
M. Night Shyamalan is about to swim in the deep end of the existential pool with his new film Old inspired by the Sandcastle graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. The creepy trailer that was a bright spot in the debacle that was the big name last night(at least for Chiefs’ fans) has everyone hunting for information on Sandcastle and what it could mean.
Sandcastle is a study in the human condition. Thirteen people of various ages find themselves stuck on a deserted island where time moves mysteriously. One hour on the island is two years in their lives. As older family members die off and children become adults, they all must face their own failings, fears, and ultimately their own mortality. None of the people ever escape the island in the novel, and the mystery is never explained. CBR reports Peeters said they initially had a twist that would save someone, but it was scrapped as it wasn’t true to the story’s conceit. The novel was never about the island’s secrets but about the mortal inhabitants. It is an allegory for life and death. Levy and Peeters’ work is dread-filled and nihilistic. The only thing sure in Sandcastle is death. The teaser for Old that dropped yesterday is equally as ominous.
Don’t expect to know what is going to happen just because you read the novel, however. In Sandcastle, everyone dies. There is no escape, no survivors, and no happy resolution, only death. Sandcastle doesn’t care so much about the hows and whys of the island rather than the people’s motivations. It is about what life and death ultimately mean and who we are as people. Old will undoubtedly take a different approach. Shyamalan has gone on record saying Old is not an adaptation of Sandcastle, but rather a tool used to carve out a new story. The really interesting thing is Shyamalan said he was reading Sandcastle for inspiration while writing the script for Glass and Old.
What do the rest of these novels potentially tell us about the inevitable twist at the end of Old? Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples‘ Saga is an epic science fiction fantasy detailing a family of extraterrestrials from warring nations. It is a massive story that is simultaneously intimate. Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá is the story of one man’s life and his eventual acceptance of his death. It is gorgeous and haunting and, in the end, transcendent.
By Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls is a mysterious sci-fi story about four twelve-year-old newspaper delivery girls. They find themselves caught up in a war between two time-traveling factions. The Old-Timers and the teenagers have very different ideas on time travel and the ethics of maintaining the timeline. This is another story revolving around the inevitability of death told through an exciting action time-traveling saga. Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire by Neil Gaiman and Shane Oakley is a richly satirical Gothic novel that is a story within a story. The protagonist is a writer who tries to write his next Gothic horror novel but finds himself derailed constantly by fantastical talking ravens and enigmatic butlers.
Finally, Last Look by Charles Burns gives us Doug, a drug-addicted shut-in who is stuck in a basement and a never-ending dream. The story is like a dream itself. It is non-linear, confusing at times, and deeply unsettling. The novel jumps from past to present storylines and in and out of reality as it weaves together the story of how Doug got where he is. Doug is doomed to live this bitter existence because of something terrible he did to or with his girlfriend, Sarah. Wracked with guilt over this and all future relationships, he is stuck in a loop of remorse and regret. The ending is bleak, completing the circle between the first page and the last.
All of the novels Shyamalan was reading deal with mortality and the human condition in one shape or form. Perhaps the twist will be the beachgoers can’t ever really die and move on. They are forced to relive the last day of life again and again until they get it right. Kind of a horrific Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day where you aren’t fighting for your life, but your death. In keeping with the unbelievably dark reference of Last Look and somewhat uplifting Daytripper, this could be a real possibility. Since Glass was being written at the same time as he conceived of Old, they might share some of the same cinematic universe?
Regardless of what angle Shyamalan takes, Old will be a divisive film, just like the filmmaker himself. Having to face your mortality while watching your children age rapidly at the same time would be nightmarish. Now add some of people’s most inherent flaws, and it is a recipe for a truly chilling experience. Old will be out July 23, 2021. If you need a good fix right now, watch Tony Basgallop’s intensely scary Servant produced by Shyamalan on Apple TV + now.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.