Ella ( Melika Foroutan ) is very happy when she drives with her two children Laura ( Bianca Nawrath ) and Noah ( Otto Emil Koch ) to her old hometown for the wedding of her sister Sanna ( Maxine Kazis ). After all, it allows her to meet loads of people she hasn’t seen in ages. Among them is her ex-husband Lukas ( Stephan Luca ), but also her father Aike ( Paul Faßnacht), who lives in a nearby retirement home. This is pretty run down. In addition, the nursing staff is hopelessly overwhelmed by the many old people. Above all, the family is shocked at how apathetic everyone is there. At the party, they can leave these impressions behind, have fun and enjoy the conviviality. They don’t notice that the seniors are ganging up and will soon be targeting the young people…
They are firmly part of the horror genre: stories about young people who find themselves in the context of terrible events and grow up a bit. While reflective coming-of-age elements have long been part of the horror mainstream, films about old people are rare in this area. A few years ago, Relic artfully combined age-related dementia, cross-generational family ties, and haunted-house terror. The humorous American Carnage, on the other hand, was set in a retirement home where something was obviously wrong. And the German Netflix production Old People is also set in such a home but likes it to be much more classic than the examples above.
Director and screenwriter Andy Fetscher based more precisely on the traditional zombie film when a horde of crazed old men hunts down everything that hasn’t yet retired. So basically it’s the opposite of Cockneys Vs. Zombies, which used to have seniors fighting zombies. While the English film told this uneven fight with more than a tongue in cheek, there is Old People meant quite seriously. At first, one still thinks that the horror flick could have satirical ambitions. The scenario at least would have had the potential to do so. However, Fetscher did not see this or was not interested in it. He would rather draw attention to the suffering of the elderly who are pushed into homes and vegetate there.
That is quite legitimate. Where in recent years generational conflicts have often meant that the old leaves the young only a broken world, where the old are both victims and perpetrators at the same time. This is linked to the topic of the rural exodus when in the small coastal town in eastern Germany only those who could not leave are left. That could have been exciting too. However, Fetscher does not succeed in making the scenario relevant in any way. Once the bloodthirsty elders have been rid of in Old People, there is no room for thoughtfulness. Only towards the end does the German filmmaker remember that he actually wanted to say something. But then he does so in a rather clumsy dialogue that is creepy in the wrong way.
All of that could probably be gotten over if the actual horror part were convincing. In fact, the film, which celebrated its world premiere at the Fantasy Filmfest 2022, is pretty dull. Relatively little can be seen for long stretches, and the motto seemed to be comparable to Slender Man: the main thing is dark. But even in the passages where something should be seen, there isn’t really anything to see. At least nothing worth seeing. Only rarely is there an idea for a horror scene that goes beyond run-of-the-mill. You don’t have to be angry about that. After all, boring representatives of the genre are anything but rare, very few actually find their own exciting scenes or pictures. At Old People, On the other hand, it’s frustrating, because there’s an original basic scenario here, but in the end, hardly anything was made of it.