Split Movie Review
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley
Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins
How It Can Be Seen: In Theaters Now!
Since 1999, this man's films have caused a major shift in not just worldwide culture, but more so American culture, beginning with his break through hit The Sixth Sense. And the filmmaker I speak of is none other than the one and only M. Night Shyamalan. The Sixth Sense was one that had a deep affect on audiences (myself included) with its themes of spirituality, the afterlife, fear, and more than anything else, not since Pulp Fiction, a refreshing take on master storytelling with a end twist so surprising that it literally had people talking days after they had seen the picture. Not to mention a piece of dialogue that would bury itself into the culture, become a catch phrase and be parodied in commercials, movies, TV and mostly everyday life - "I See Dead People". His next two films to follow, Unbreakable & Signs, would also become major hits. It wasn't until the release of The Village, and because of a misstep in marketing, the film would be a huge let down much to the dismay of audiences and critics alike. People just wanted to see more movies from Night that were fear driven. Instead they got a love story with The Village. Although with me, it wasn't the marketing that let me down because I tend to go in to seeing a film with a clean slate and no preconceived expectations. No, for me, the let down was the reveal in the 3rd Act of what the truth really was. And don't worry, I won't go into any spoilers for those who haven't seen it. For me I found that reveal extremely anti-climactic to the point where I audibly said, "What?? Really? That's it? That's what this whole thing with these so called monsters have been all about??". I'd sooner put my belief in ghosts or aliens. Hell, I'd put my belief in a story about a man who has the ability to not get sick or physically hurt and then becomes a modern day superhero! But I digress. What we're talking about is that shift from that film, The Village, on. From that point forward his films would go on to polarize audiences. For his first three films, people loved the work of M. Night Shyamalan! They were on board with what he was doing. But because of faulty marketing, from then on you either loved his next film, or hated it.
For my money, it really wasn't until 2015's The Visit that I felt Night was back. He had returned to his roots of splendid storytelling. Not to say that after The Village there weren't one or two films that I thorough enjoyed, like Lady In The Water. While I know many that trash that film, it made me feel like a child again as it played out like a children's fable or bedtime story, which it actually was as Night made up that story and would actually tell it to his kids before bed. But for me it just filled me with wonder, imagination, and adventure while delivering some thought provoking themes. But back to The Visit, what I loved was this theme of Family, which is a reoccurring theme in many of his films, especially with those first three pictures; that was the main focal point and was stitched brilliant through out The Visit. Additionally what Night does best with his films is create palpable mystery and suspense, any disturbing circumstances or horror come out of them. Always wanting to know what is going to happen next, and how those discoveries are revealed, when they're going to be revealed, and what the reactions of those characters will be. I was so pleased with that film though and I felt as though my faith had returned that whatever film was to come next was going to be a good one. I had no idea that one Night's smartest films to date was to be released next.
Some months ago late last year, a trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next film SPLIT dropped, as did my jaw as I realized this picture was going to be not only Night's smartest but his most psychological film to date. It stars James McAvoy (most people will recognize him as playing Professor X in the recent X-Men movies) and Anya Taylor-Joy (she blew up the scene with her break through role in 2015's The VVitch, and then went on to play in the Ridley Scott produced sci-fi thriller Morgan, and now this film). McAvoy plays a man named Kevin. What's so special about Kevin? His suffers from D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder - AKA Split Personality). Most people will have a few different personalities when suffering from D.I.D. But Kevin has 23 inhabiting him. When 3 of those personalities are hooked on a belief that "The Beast" is real, will emerge through Kevin and become the 24th, one of those personalities feels that he must kidnap 3 teenage girls and offer them up as a sacrifice -- But is that the true purpose of The Beast? You will have to watch the film to uncover just that one of Many surprises and clever reveals, which this film is filled with. I've heard many people complain about 2 of the 3 girls and how pointless they are. However after giving it much though, those characters, Claire and Marcia (played by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula), are incredibly important and actually help explain the purpose of The Beast. The ending to this story is one of the most surprising and mind blowing ones I've seen on film in a while, and I'm not gonna hint at what it is or what has to do with, but holy shit! What a revelation! As is McAvoy's acting! Up until this film, I had seen maybe a fraction of his ability as a performer. But after seeing his performance in this picture I feel I have seen the full spectrum of his gift as an actor and performer, what he is capable of with this particular character will astound you. Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress and I feel with each passing film she does her performances become more tight and perfected. I simply cannot wait to see more films with her in it! SPLIT is a thinking person's horror thriller brimming with fascination and intrigue - You won't know what hits you until it does!