Known as one of Hollywood’s premiere Supernatural filmmakers, M. Night Shyamalan’s name precedes him. Having a knack for interjecting an unforeseen twist in his stories, such films as 1998’s The Sixth Sense and 2000’s Unbreakable are just a few of the titles that have left lasting impressions on audiences.
Teaming up with Blinding Edge Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, Shyamalan’s latest effort to hit the silver screen is a film going by the name of Split. Written, directed, and produced by Shyamalan, Split premiered at Fantastic Fest back on September 26, 2016 and was released nationwide on Friday, January 20, 2017 via Universal Pictures. Exploring a myriad of horrors, the Psychological Thriller has been called sinister and intense, but does it live up to the hype?
Taking the audience along for the ride from the start, in the opening sequence, three teenagers are abducted following a birthday party. A terrifying turn of a events, two of them, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson: Ravenwood series, The Edge of Seventeen 2016) and Marcia (Jessica Sula: Skins series, Honeytrap 2014) are popular girls, while the third, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy: The Witch 2015, Morgan 2016), is an outsider simply along for the ride. Beyond what seems like three normal girls on the surface, there is something unique about them, something that is important to the plotline of the film.
Kevin (James McAvoy: Wanted 2008, X-men series) becomes the disjointed, fragmented individual whose often subtle and nuanced portrayal drives the film. His psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley: Eight is Enough series, Oz series), shares only a part of his “internal dialogue” of twenty-three personalities that are disclosed, and sadly, only a fraction of those are visible on-screen. Although, investing more time into these parts of the main character would seem rather contrived. Rather unknown to the audience, adding to the tension, the multiple personality shifts are quiet compelling and leaves the story wide-open.
Like Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho 1960, The Birds 1963), Shyamalan has a flair for mystery in his films. This was extremely successful in aforementioned film The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. In regards to Split, there is certainly a hidden agenda that needs to be seen, not read in a review. While some believe Split’s run-time could have been cut to tighten the story, those maybe viewers possibly missed the fragmented messages of the stories within the story. These are messages that need each piece to construct the prism to make it whole.
Split’s strengths come from the steady build of tension as the audience looks through windows and doors of a supposedly broken human being. Nods to Horror and Sci-Fi classics such as 1991’s Silence of the Lambs and 1995’s Twelve Monkeys are scattered throughout the film. With the help of cinematography from Mike Gioulakis (John Dies at the End 2012, It Follows 2014), production design from Mara Pere-Shlop (Green Lantern 2011, Django Unchained 2012), art direction from Jesse Rosenthal (Law Abiding Citizen 2009, Creed 2015), and score from West Dylan Thordson (Foxcatcher 2014, Joy 2015), Shyamalan’s complex vision completely comes into focus.
Overall, Split does a fine job of leading audiences down a winding hall of a shattered mind. Above all, the most shining aspect of the film is McAvoy’s performance, showing the multiple layers of his abilities as an actor and fearlessness to take on such an intense role. While in some viewer’s eyes Shyamalan’s films are hit or miss, Split is a first-rate Thriller well worth the price of admission. CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.