SPLIT is the best M. Night Shyamalan film since Stuart Little. So says Heather, our Irish “Con Gal” contributor who joins us this week to review Shyamalan’s latest thriller, staring James McAvoy as an eccentric man with 24 personalities who kidnaps three girls. Her review follows the trailer, below.
Split is by far Shyamalan’s best work in many years. However, with that said I think we all know how low that bar has gotten over the past decade. I myself have long born a grudge against Night since I was duped into paying to see not only The Happening but also After Earth. In fact, my resentment was so deep that only the dual attraction of free tickets and James McAvoy could induce me to even give Split a chance. It is not a spectacular film but it is a spectacular performance from McAvoy which makes this ok film worth watching.
Split is set in Shyamalan’s beloved Philadelphia and follows the story of three teenage girls who are abducted and held captive by a mad man. Pretty standard horror fare, the twist here being that Kevin has 23 different personalities. The girls are abducted by Dennis, cared for by Patricia and occasionally visited by nine-year old Hedwig. Meanwhile, Barry keeps regular appointments with his therapist who is growing increasingly concerned and suspicious about his behavior. Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig are keeping the girls in anticipation of the emergence of a 24th personality that they refer to only as The Beast. After much hand-wringing and many, many unnecessarily cryptic conversations, The Beast makes his inevitable appearance. The trademark Shyamalan twist, here being that the thing that we are told is going to happen in the advertising and all the way through the movie is exactly what happens. Ultimately, this is an eminently forgettable film without James McAvoy.
It is easy to see why McAvoy took this part since he so clearly relishes this opportunity to stretch his legs and show off his considerable talent. In fact, Shyamalan’s best directorial choice in this film was really to just get out of James’ way and let him run with it. He is seething with barely controlled rage as Dennis, ominously nice and terrifyingly controlling as Patricia and sweet but damaged as Barry. However, in my opinion, it’s as Hedwig where McAvoy truly shines. He is so menacingly innocent, unsettlingly weird and some of the most suspenseful and eerie moments in the film are entirely his. McAvoy turns in a fluid, nuanced and perturbing performance and that alone is worth seeing.
One thing that I just don’t understand is why Shyamalan felt it necessary to make a point of this character having 23 personalities when ultimately only 7 or 8 make an appearance and only 5 are of any real consequence. Is it really any weirder for one human being to have 23 personalities than it is to have 5? What is the point of a dozen extra personalities that are never seen or explored? Also, there is a not-so-subtle but entirely pointless nod to Unbreakable towards the end of the film. It’s almost as if Shyamalan is begging us to remember when he made good movies.
Ultimately Split is a watchable film that James McAvoy rescues from being totally forgettable. As for Shyamalan, it’s a mediocre first step on the road to redemption.
Hungry? (thirsty?) Check out Heather’s hilarious and appetizing YouTube baking series STICK IT IN YOUR PIE HOLE! Here’s one of her episodes… an appetizer.
You can contact and follow Con Gal Heather at @OnlyMostlyIrish