M Knight Shyamalan is something of an enigma when it comes to filmmaking. Having become Hollywood’s go to guy for shocking twist endings with ‘The Sixth Sense’ and tense thrillers, see 2000’s ‘Unbreakable’, he began to lose his way rather fast with a series of absolute flops, critically and commercially. However, redemption is never too far away in the movie business, and Shyamalan’s came with 2015’s ‘The Visit’, a black comedy-horror about two kids going to see their crazy grandparents for the weekend – a surprising delight!
Now he’s back with ‘Split’, a film with a concept so good you’re going to question why it hasn’t been done already; the abduction of three teenaged girls by a man with TWENTY-THREE split personalities, played by the brilliant James McAvoy. Then the first thing I loved kicked in, the gorgeously in-your-face opening credits. Cutting between McAvoy loading his victims into holding cells, and the opening titles was a really stylish way of explaining a lot with a little.
As the girls begin to deal with their situation, we are introduced to the backstory of Casey, seemingly a classic ‘weirdo’, who was only with the girls in the first place due to a sympathetic birthday party invite. We slowly unravel just who and what she is through a series of increasingly gripping flashbacks to her youth.
In the present, McAvoy’s character is displaying a set of troubled characteristics, as the unravelling of his predicament is becoming clear to the audience. His own alternate scenes with his psychologist explore his darker side, and also work as a cool contrast to Casey’s own alternate scenes. The single best thing about ‘Split’ is its ability to subvert your expectations.
I expected a gratuitous horror film, based soley around the great, if not one-dimensional hook of a villain with split personalities. But as you delve deeper into the story, and as things pick up, with each reveal, each key plot twist, your mind races with the true possibilities, trying to form your own opinion of what is truly going on with these characters.
Let’s talk about the performances: if there was any justice, then James McAvoy would be getting some awards recognition for his role as ‘Kevin’. He’s terrible, mysterious, hilarious, sympathetic and much, much more as he takes on the role of TWENTY-plus (that needs to be highlighted every time!) characters, surely a Guinness World Record at the very least?! The girls too, led by Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), are great, not there to make up the numbers, and while the other two are slightly dispensable, they are believable as real teenage girls, in real peril and that is crucial to hooking you in and keep you emotionally involved throughout the film.
Visually, it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at, the cold, minimalist backdrops to the terror really take hold and become kind of side characters in their own right, you’re desperate to escape their confines as much as the kidnapped teens. And the score itself is gorgeous, with its onimous, tense tones really complimenting certain scenes to perfection, as the big baddie reveal comes, slowly but surely.
I was thrilled by ‘Split’, it may have took time to get going, for the concept to settle in and really grip me, but by its close it was mightily satisfying. One word to the wise, you may want to catch Shyamalan’s film, ‘Unbreakable’, to make the most of the thrilling climax, although you’re equally as good going in without seeing it! One thing for sure is that Shyamalan’s back; ‘Split’ is a rollercoaster ride, best seen on the big-screen, with a booming soundsystem and a tub full of popcorn to hide your head in.
Have you seen ‘Split’? What do you make of M Night Shyamalan’s latest movie? Let me know below!