Director M. Night Shyamalan sure has a spotty record with it concerns his films. For every hit (“The Sixth Sense”) the director has, there seems to be a flop (“The Village”).
So how does the director fare with his latest effort “Split”? Well is you can shake the horrible memory of “After Earth” from your mind, I recommend giving his latest effort a chance. “Split” is a psychological horror film featuring James McAboy in the lead role, or should I say roles. You see, McAboy’s character Kevin Wendell Crumb suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, a mental disorder previously known as multiple personal disorder. Kevin has 23 personalities, several of which come to light during the film. Kevin’s dominate personality, “Barry”, has frequent appointments with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), his psychiatrist, who believes his psychological unbalance can actually cause physiological changes.
The story begins by introducing us to three teenagers, of which I will only mention one, as the other two are basically “every teens”. The most interesting of the trio of teens is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), an outsider who has a sordid back story. One day while out with one of the teens dads, the trio are kidnapped by “Dennis”, one of Kevin’s personalities, and taken to a mysterious location where they are locked up. While the girls are attempting to devise a way to attack their captor, they meet several of Kevin’s other personalities, including “Patricia” and “Hedwig”, a personality claiming to be a nine-year-old boy. As if that isn’t enough, “Hedwig” informs the girls they are to sacrificed to “The Beast”, which would be a 24th personality.
While the girls continue to devise a way to escape, Dr. Fletcher is so alarmed by the number of emails she has received from “Barry”, she rushes to Kevin’s residence. When Dr. Fletcher arrives, matters really take a nose-dive when she discovers the girls being held by Kevin. The movie ends with several surprises, including the expected Shyamalan “twist” that directly relates to one of his earlier films. This film was extremely intense, and the performance of McAvoy totally saves the film from being merely average. The actor is totally creepy in the film, and his performance is one that will not soon be forgotten. As for Taylor-Joy, she is equally on target with her heartfelt performance as the misunderstood and tragic Casey. This film is disturbing and thrilling, and plants Shyamalan back in the winners column. Save for one scene where McAvoy goes a tad bit over-the-top, the film succeeds on every level. For fans of psychological thrillers, “Split” is your chance to catch a winner at your local theater.
(Rated PG-13) ***1/2 (out of 4)