With SPLIT, we find one very talented filmmaker back in top form. M. Night Shyamalan, who burst onto the scene and soared to A-List success with his debut film, The Sixth Sense – which, apart from the directing style reminiscent of Hitchcock, featured one of the single most memorable twists in cinematic history – has been gradually getting his groove back over the last few years, after a series of near-fatal stumbles. Looking at YOU, The Last Airbender. Not to mention The Happening. Or After Earth. Did I say The Village? THE VILLAGE. Blech!
But then came The Visit. It wasn’t great, but it WAS a welcome step in the right direction.
In the hands of another director, especially one working for Blum House Productions, SPLIT probably would’ve been yet another cheap gross-out, jump-scare fest like HOSTEL or THE GREEN INFERNO.
With M. Night Shyamalan directing from his own script, we are instead treated to a horror film firmly embedded in the Hitchcockian realm. In short, it’s a scary, suspense-filled ride buoyed by a jaw-dropping performance from James McEvoy (the younger Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise) with a stellar supporting cast headed by Anya Taylor-Joy as a teenage girl with a troubled past who, along with two friends, is kidnapped by a man named “Dennis,” (James McEvoy) who has 23 personalities, and is planning to sacrifice the girls to an emerging 24th referred to only as “The Beast.”
With only hours to plot their escape from the apparently impenetrable dwelling of Dennis and Co., the girls attempt to “trick” the other personalities to free them, and with every moment in the film after the girls’ abduction, the suspense mounts, punctuated with intense moments ranging from sheer terror to fairly brutal horror (the film is only rated PG-13 – sorry, hardcore gross-out fans!) as the film barrels headlong into the final moments of its white-knuckle conclusion.
While the main story was enjoyable, I found myself drawn to the backstory of Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Casey Cooke, who is shown in flashbacks as a sweet little girl whose life is about to become savagely dark, and that’s years before she finds herself trapped in a creepy, industrial-sized basement ruled by a madman. She’s not your average “final girl,” folks!
As is so often the case in Shyamalan’s worlds, there are monsters everywhere, supernatural or otherwise. To say more would spoil the film, suffice to say the world of SPLIT is very dark, indeed.
What’s that? Twist, you say? I mean, this IS M. Night Shyamalan, so there must be a twist, right?
Yes – although I would categorize it as more of a revelation than twist. Which is cool, because unlike M. Night’s lesser works where the twists came off as forced, the ending of SPLIT features a very cool, completely natural revelation that may – or may not – lead to a sequel. Of sorts.
See it and judge for yourself.
SPLIT is one of my favorite films by a talented writer and director. I was impressed by the story, the acting, and the directing. It was like a reunion with an old friend who’d been away too long.
See this one, Deadies!