From seeing dead people to seeing crop circles, M. Night Shyamalan has created some classics over the years.
He started out with movies that became instant hits and that later became some of the most recognized horror films in the genre “Signs,” “The Sixth Sense,” “The Village.” Lately, however, Shyamalan has been disappointing critics and audiences with movies like “After Earth,” “Devil” and “The Last Airbender.” Things seemed to be looking up when he released “The Visit,” a thrilling movie that left a lot of film buffs questioning whether this was a fluke. After seeing his most recent film, “Split,” I can say that things are looking up for Shyamalan again.
Split offers a fresh take on the cliché concept of young, dumb and attractive girls being kidnapped by a crazed middle-aged man. James McAvoy, a talented actor who has been in the X-Men franchise and Showtime original “Shameless,” created for audiences a new image of a kidnapper.
While two of the girls live up to the stereotypical hysterical and begging victim, actress Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Casey, saves the movie from sliding into repetition and predictability. Taylor-Joy recently gave a stellar performance in The Witch, and she struck again with her role in Split. Casey is a mysterious and brooding character who refuses to play victim. She is intelligent, calm and rational. We are shown flashbacks of Casey’s troubled childhood, and viewers feel a connection to her as she fights the demons right in front of her while simultaneously fighting the demons of her past.
McAvoy breaks the stereotype of middle-aged male kidnapper who constantly torments his abductees. We are instead given a kidnapper who is suffering from dissociative personality disorder, and has 23 personalities along with a mysterious 24th personality known as “the beast.” Collectively, these personalities are called the horde. His personalities range from the hilarious Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy who likes dancing to Kanye West, to Dennis, a man with OCD who confuses and frightens the girls. Other personalities include Orwell, Jade, Samuel and the seemingly rational Barry who is obsessed with fashion and often does the talking when interacting in the outside world. Be ready to cringe when the terrifying beast comes out. Some scenes are not for the faint of heart.
“Split” builds suspense with eerie audio and intense close ups, and inflicts anxiety with extended action sequences. The movie delves into the human psyche and the mystery that is the human brain. It isn’t often that a movie can make you laugh and then five minutes later make you cringe with disgust. “Split” blends humor, suspense, mystery and an element of the supernatural that will leave you wondering what it means to be a human. Perhaps everyone has a demon within them, and multiple voices in their head that are struggling to be heard. As McAvoy’s character states: “Only through pain can you achieve greatness.”
Shyamalan is famous for creating strange twists, building suspense and inflicting paranoia as the viewer tries to figure out what the hell is going on. “Split” is no exception. The movie builds psychological terror as the viewer tries to decipher the many personalities of the kidnapper. A palpable stress could be felt throughout the theatre as the girls struggle to escape the strange assailant. There are even a few moments of social satire that will be appreciated by the perceptive, clever and cynical viewer.
“Split” was an intriguing film that stands out from the droll of recent horror flicks. The film isn’t perfect: some of the characters are underdeveloped and cliché, and there isn’t anything absolutely groundbreaking that occurs. Besides some mild problems and the inclusion of overused characters, “Split” is a great movie.
While “Split” does not stand up to the twisted greatness of other Shyamalan films like “the Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” it is a solid work that makes me wonder what he will do next. If you are into horror, dark comedy and intense thrillers, make your way to the theatre to see “Split.” Come meet the horde.
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