Oh M. Night Shyamalan. Will I ever forgive you for the abomination you turned The Last Airbender into? Probably not. Your latest horror film does, at least, work towards cleansing the bad taste you’ve left in the mouths of moviegoers for the past number of years.
When three young girls are kidnapped by a cold an imposing mystery man (James McAvoy) they brace themselves for the worst as they struggle to find a way to escape the prison he keeps them in. The worst they can imagine is far from the truth though as it’s revealed that not only does their captor have an extreme case of multiple personality disorder, the reason for their kidnapping is a terrifying turn of events that could have a huge impact on the world.
Partly a typical B thriller with spicy cheese, partly a fascinating twist on a number of classic genres, and entirely a Shyamalan flick, Split is easily the divisive director’s best film in some time. Settle in for a chilling kidnapping tale featuring girls in their underwear facing death around the corner peppered with some clever comedy, a dark backstory, psychological musings, and a number of M Night’s patented twists. Oh, and a ovation worthy turn by James McAvoy.
The girls may be the protagonists here, but it is McAvoy’s character(s) that take the spotlight nearly 100% of the time. He stretches his chameleonic prowess to portray a number of extremely distinct characters inhabiting the same body in an exercise of acting that is equal parts chilling and amusing, not to mention impressive.
The plot continues to become more and more far fetched as the film goes on, and childhood flashbacks seem contrived and out of place. There is a reason for this. Maybe not a good reason, but a reason all the same. Knowing the director’s library of films, any reasonable film goer will expect a twist to come out of a predictable left field. I though I saw it coming. I can only assume that Shyamalan perfectly set things up with people like me in mind as things seemed to line up for a big reveal that was, in fact, far from the truth.
I can just about guarentee you, you won’t see this one coming. Granted, you might figure out the mini twist as it comes and goes, rounding out the characters nicely with a few emotional scenes that let things really sink in. But then make sure you really stick it out until the final frame just as the credits start rolling. The impact of this scene may be lost on many, but for those who “get” it, it puts the entire movie in an entirely new perspective, making you wonder if what you saw is, actually a work of genius and an innovation of a genre of film you didn’t even know you were watching. It’s a great little moment, but not quite enough to entirely save the film from itself as it chokes down on some truly cringey moments. The ending doesn’t fix the issues of being heavy handed, cheesy, and tonally inconsistent. It’s 85% of the way there, but still, it’s a heck of a lot better than The Happening, and it’s even kind of sort of great.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Three out of five hats
Split fractures 3,037 theaters, January 20