Well what do you know, M. Night Shyamalan has proven that The Visit wasn’t just a fluke—he’s actually back and heading towards new heights as a director. Sure The Visit wasn’t perfect, but when you hold it up to the majority of the crap he did in the 2000s you can clearly see a shift in his trajectory. Twisted, sick humor woven into some truly horrific material now defines Shyamalan as a director, and with Split he further cements this new approach in a truly spine-tingling flick.
But Shyamalan isn’t the only one to thank for this excellent thriller, it’s the insanely good (pun intended) James McAvoy as Dennis, Hedwig, Barry, Kevin, Jade, and Patricia—a man with 23 different personalities wrestling for “the light” inside of his head who kidnaps three girls for preparation of the 24th personality, “The Beast.”
McAvoy takes some sick pleasure in switching from one personality to the next—and he makes us laugh and cower while doing so. His Hedwig stands out the most—a nine-year-old who loves Kanye West and secrets–but at a moment’s notice he can switch to the obsessive-compulsive and all-too-terrifying Dennis who terrorizes the girls like a sadistic babysitter.
The girls, however, range from superb to downright annoying. Anya Taylor-Joy (following up her stellar performance in The Witch) marks herself as a new face of horror. She’s quiet but knowing. It’s as if she understands the entire situation from the beginning—and throughout the film we come to know her and see just what she is doing. She’s compelling without feeling like a victim, we root for her instead of pity her. It’s the kind of writing we need to see for female horror characters—and it’s why the other two girls (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) feel so damn annoying with their screaming and cowering.
Shyamalan, who has been known for his twist endings—and oh boy is there one—now takes pleasure in making movies where you literally have no idea where it’s going. It starts off as a sick thriller about kidnapped girls, and then it evolves again and again as he tosses in elements of supernatural, psychological, and body horror so you never really quite know what to expect. It’s a delirious nightmare of a movie that you won’t ever predict how it ends.
Gripes aside with the supporting characters, Split begs to be seen. It’s a director who has had a second wind and a criminally underrated actor performing his ass off along with a girl who represents the new face of female horror stars. It has all of the elements to surpass Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense and will leave you shaking in your seat.
Go see it lickety….split.