Welcome back Mr. Shyamalan. You were sorely missed.
After a long stretch of disappointments, M. Night Shyamalan presents us the tense and expertly crafted psycho thriller, Split. The film stars James McAvoy and Betty Buckley with Shyamalan serving as both director and writer.
Three teenage girls are just about to drive home together when they suddenly get attacked and kidnapped by a strange man named Kevin. The three girls wake up in a cellar and find out that Kevin has 23 different personalities living inside his body. A few of them are Dennis, who has violent tendencies and suffers from OCD; Hedwig, a nine year old boy; and Barry, the dominant personality who frequently meets with psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Buckley). The girls try to find a way to escape while the personalities continuously speak of "The Beast", a 24th personality that the girls will supposedly be sacrificed to.
If Shyamalan has proven anything to us with Split, it's that we shouldn't count out someone that has shown flashes of brilliance in the past. I can't really think of another notable director whose career over the past 15 plus years has been such a roller coaster like Shyamalan's. How does a guy that brings us a superb work of horror in The Sixth Sense also bring us massive elephant turds in After Earth, The Happening, and The Last Airbender? Maybe sometimes you need to fail before you can truly succeed. It might mean that Shyamalan is on the upswing and his very best thrills are still yet to come.
But I digress. Split is a gem in the month of January that is normally the dumping grounds for awful new releases.
- James McAvoy. He brightly shines in a role that is quite a drastic change from a younger Professor X. He plays every different personality to perfection and gives creepy, psychotic smiles that might keep you up at night.
- The pacing, a forgotten and overlooked component of effective thriller/horror films nowadays. The kidnapping happens within the first 10 minutes of the film, and from there, Shyamalan keeps the film moving so as to not have it ever seem too slow or rushed. The build-up to "The Beast" and the climactic ending is superb. Each major personality of Kevin is given the time it needs to flourish, and the various escape attempts by the girls only add to the growing suspense and intrigue.
- I'm at a loss when it comes to pointing out a significant flaw in Split. There are points where you wonder to yourself, "Why didn't the girls try doing this or that earlier?" One of them gets locked in a separate room and after a while (she eventually finds out what type of lock is on the door), she starts searching the room for something to use to unlock the door. Moments like this make you wonder why didn't this girl start looking for a way to escape right away, instead of grieving for an extended period? The main girl, Casey, simply sits in the car and watches in horror as Kevin uses a chloroform spray on the other two girls when they're being kidnapped. She freezes for a good number of seconds, when just about any normal girl in her situation would probably scream and run for her life.
Shyamalan has justification for just about everything the girls do, as well as why Casey always seems so calm and collected. He doesn't seem to miss a beat with the writing.
Like in just about all of Shyamalan's previous films, there's a twist ending. This one is definitely up there and, without giving anything away, let's just say that it should get you excited for the future.
Split is a resounding return to form for a director that has been sorely missed for many years. Shyamalan's direction and writing are top-notch with James McAvoy delivering a terrific and memorable performance. Let's just say it'd be best to be familiar with Shyamalan's previous works to get the full impact of this film.
Recommend? Yes. I'd recommend watching Shyamalan's earliest works first, but you'll definitely have a good time regardless.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: