M. Night Shyamalan is back! This is his second horror film of recent years, following “The Visit” (2015), which got pretty good reviews. Many will hear the name of Shyamalan and sigh, some will say he just went downhill after his first few movies. Admittedly, after “The Village” (2004), his films did take a downwards turn, so much in fact that it’s taken him almost a decade to recover to the point where studios will let him make movies again. But here he is, after ten years of working his way back up the ladder. “Split” is awesome and I highly recommend it.
The film follows Kevin (James McAvoy), a tortured man with 23 different personalities living inside him as he kidnaps three teenage girls and brings them back to his hideout as his captives, Casey (played by Anya Taylor-Joy who some will remember from “The Witch”) and her two classmates Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). While the girls try and figure out how to escape, they meet several of Kevin’s personalities, including the personality of a 9-year-old boy named Hedwig who Casey tries to befriend and convince him that they need to escape.
The other plot that is occurring simultaneously is that of Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who one of Kevin’s personalities has been emailing and meeting with. Dr. Fletcher believes that Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is the gateway to unlock the mind’s true potential, and that those who suffer from DID are our key to understanding what the human mind is truly capable of.
We don’t get to meet all of McAvoy’s 23 personalities, but we meet enough of them to have fun. I was thoroughly impressed by his performance, though I wasn’t blown away; he did something most actors would find very challenging.
“Split,” though not perfect, is one of Shyamalan’s better films and officially marks his triumphant return to the thing he does best: directing terrific thrillers. This film is packed full of suspenseful moments, contains great character development, and has interesting things to say about mental illness. If you’re a fan of Shyamalan’s work, you need to see this film.
The last thing I have to say is more of a suggestion. There is a moment in “Split” where one of Shyamalan’s previous films is alluded to, “Unbreakable” (2000). It’s a pretty important moment in the film, and it would help if you had seen “Unbreakable” recently for the significance of the moment to fully sink in. But if you don’t want to, the film stands well enough on its own that seeing “Unbreakable” isn’t required (though it is a great movie!).
– by D.M. Hutchins