Split: Welcome to the Shyamalanaissance
Split is a fantastic horror film that opens up a new world and introduces us to a beautifully original villain. I love that there is a sequel in the works (spoiler!!) and how it has been able to clear $100 million worldwide on a shoestring budget ($7 million). M. Night Shyamalan is back in a big way and this self-financed thriller combined with The Visit has made it cool again (I’ve always been on his side) to support M. Night.
Split tells the story of three teenagers who are kidnapped by a man who has 23 personalities. Their captor Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) suffers from dissociative identity disorder and is in a constant battle between his various personalities. Thus, the three girls never know who will be coming through the door next. It could be the childlike Hedwig or the stern matriarch Patricia coming through and warning them about “The Beast.” Eventually we learn more about the girls and the outsider of the group Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) starts to take the lead. Casey has a history of abuse in her family and her interactions with the Kevin’s various personalities start to play out like a very weird chess match.
James McAvoy really impressed me recently in Filth and I like that he is back in multiple personality land. The guy has to juggle a whole lot of characters while remembering lines and lines of dialogue. He had to jump in on little notice after Joaquin Phoenix dropped out and I can’t imagine the stress he felt when taking this role. Also, the rushed production schedule forced M. Night to film less coverage and focus mainly on tight shots that rely heavily on close-ups and single characters in frame. What I like is how McAvoy was able to make you feel bad for him even as he is doing terrible things. Kevin has a battle going on inside him and McAvoy is able to create multiple three-dimensional characters with limited screen time. I know this will never happen but it would be awesome if he was remembered come awards time because the performance is so daring and off the wall.
I don’t want to go too much further into the plot or ending because I would be doing you a massive disservice. However, I will say that it is very satisfying and opens up some really cool ideas for the future. The ending made me so happy that I wanted to pick up the person next to me and run around the movie theater. I can’t wait for the eventual sequel and I hope Split keeps plugging along and collecting money.
Welcome back M. Night! I knew you’d crush it again.