After his beloved wife suddenly commits suicide, octogenarian Manuel (Zorion Eguileor) starts behaving strangely and is soon taken into the care of his son, his wife, and their daughter in hopes of adjusting to the loss. However, Manuel becomes more erratic in his behavior and starts to show an odd obsession with signals coming from an unknown origin. As the family struggles, they begin to realize that the elderly all around them are also beginning to behave weirdly. What is behind the sudden shift, and does the family need to start fearing the elderly?

Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez’s The Elderly touches on some intriguing themes of how we view the elderly within our society, as well as their role in ushering in the next generation. It hints at abuse, loneliness, and sickness among the old which is something that is largely ignored when talking about social issues. The production’s ability to approach the common discomfort of dealing with the elderly while still using them as an object of horror is, arguably, the greatest strength of the film. This is not an exploitation film, it is horror with a dose of humanity in asking for a degree of empathy for the plight of the old. 

However, as a more traditional horror narrative, The Elderly is not nearly as well constructed. While it largely rests in the realm of uncomfortable, it is a slow build that hinders itself through constant audio stings. The pervasive sense of unease begins to restrict aspects of the production, as it eludes to scares that never really materialize. The conclusion is shocking, but the build feels more suiting of a Hollywood horror where jump scares are thrown in immediately to keep the audience on their toes. This is where The Elderly really falters and seems to underutilize the horror elements, yet this is also tricky as leaning more into more horror around senior citizens can push the film into exploitation and lose the social conscience edge that makes it a notable exploration of sufferings of the older generations. Perhaps, The Elderly by design is a film that can’t work.

Zorion Eguileor and Gustavo Salmerón in The Elderly

As far as presentation goes, the production is rather gorgeous despite the upsetting subject matter. The beauty of the city transition into small isolated spaces that show the unglamorous accommodations of its citizens. The film has a wonderful flow that leads to uneasy visuals. Most importantly, the camera captures the intimacy of the family unit that begins to tragically degrade under the mounting pressures of Manuel’s mental decline. Notably,  the most upsetting scene in the production comes from a moment of frustration that leads to a violent spurt of elderly abuse. The performances are complimentary and the family unit does feel fully realized, yet Zorion Eguileor as Manuel is the dominant force in any scene that he is—the embodiment of pride and old-world toughness. 

The Elderly has a strong visual direction, intelligent script, memorable performances, and a wild conclusion that will be burned into the viewer’s memory. In fact, there are a lot of memorable moments that are bound to crawl under your skin and sit there for a bit. Yet, the production does struggle to establish a strong sense of identity and it has an uncomplimentary, peculiar flow that muddies both its elements of horror and its exploration of themes of abuse. Consequently, The Elderly becomes a difficult film to really cater to a certain audience as those looking for non-stop scares are bound to be disappointed. Still, with all the positives and its nightmarish conclusion, The Elderly is worth checking out.


We Watched The Elderly as Part of the 2022 Fantastic Fest Line-up


Past Festival Coverage