These past several years, whenever you saw the name "M. Night Shyamalan" attached to a movie, you would know it was going to be terrible. Many of us shook our heads when we watched The Happening, others couldn't even sit through After Earth, and everyone still cannot forgive him for butchering The Last Airbender. M. Night Shyamalan has made a string of horrible movies that everyone thought the man had dug himself a shithole he couldn't get out of.
But that is because the director himself fed us high expectations. After being the man behind classic thrillers such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, he screwed up big time with every other film project that followed.
Shyamalan attempted to crawl out of that same hole in 2015
with a low-budget horror film called The
Visit, which was a decent found-footage horror film but wasn't enough to change
people's minds about him just yet. With the release of his newest movie Split, an amazing low-budget thriller movie
finally marks the director's cinematic comeback.
Split tells the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), a patient who is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Have you noticed that this condition is often utilized as a plot twist in films? Fight Club, Secret Window - I find it refreshing to see the condition being used as a central focus for a movie this time around. But instead of the usual split personality, there are 23 personalities residing in Kevin's body. ÃÂ
At the start, "Dennis" kidnaps three teenage girls after a party and locks them up in a basement. While Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) panic and helplessly try to find a way out, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), who's more of an outsider, stays calm and analyzes the situation. The girls hear several voices conversing with one another from outside the room. They eventually realize the voices belong to one person. Throughout the film, you'll see each of them attempting to outsmart Kevin's personalities and make an escape.
Meanwhile, as a sort of a change of pace from the intense scenes happening underground, "Barry" (a personality that resides within Dennis) visits Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) for their regular therapy sessions. ÃÂ It is through these scenes where the film dives deeper into Kevin's unique condition. Dr. Fletcher calmly talks to "Barry" and the others about a 24th personality called "The Beast", who has yet to manifest. It appears that all of Kevin's personalities fear this newcomer and are preparing for his arrival.
Only a handful of personalities are featured throughout the film and James McAvoy plays all of them: ÃÂ the motherly Patricia, the neat freak Dennis, fashion enthusiast Barry, and 9-year old Hedwig. And damn, he portrays all of them with finesse. It's bizarrely funny to watch him switch personalities in an effortless manner.ÃÂ
But that's also where the thrill lies. I held my breath
every time James McAvoy was in a scene because he always manages to make his
presence unnerving. Since he harbors all these different personalities (not all
of which are friendly), you cannot predict what he will do next. One moment
he's innocently sucking his thumb like a baby, the next he's holding a knife
like a murderer. The whole movie works because of him.
Anya Taylor-Joy's performance here is also commendable. She portrayed an anti-social, troubled persona with believable quality. Considering she's relatively new to the Hollywood scene, this actress is already making waves. I look forward to seeing her acting chops in other projects.
Split is creepy and unsettling the whole way through. Apart from excellent performances from the cast, the movie's technical delivery is something worth nothing. It's filled with tight cinematic shots coupled with a minimal soundtrack that only intensify the suspense and claustrophobia. Also, since this is a M. Night Shyamalan film, expect the movie to have a few jaw-dropping twists up its sleeve.
It's a huge relief that Shyamalan has gone back to his roots. He managed to prove to moviegoers that he still has it. If you are a fan of thrillers and horror, Split is a must-watch. If you are one of those who are skeptical but still have tinniest bit of hope for M. Night Shyamalan, then give Split a go. You won't be disappointed.ÃÂ