Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke
Directed By: M Night Shyamalan
Plot: Three young girls are kidnapped by a man with a very unique multiple personality disorder. It’s an M Night Shyamalan film, so I don’t want to ruin any twists.
What Works: Again, without ruining any twists, this will be hard. Yes, I missed this film in theatres. January is a tough time for me to catch everything, because I’m trying to catch up on Oscar films just starting to get wide releases. There’s just so much. I decided to wait for video, and I’m glad I saw Split. This is Shyamalan’s best film since Signs, for sure. It’s the return of the talented director we all had high hopes for but started squandering his talent with useless crap like The Happening and The Last Airbender. Now, he’s returned to form, and Split is really an unexpected masterpiece. James McAvoy has literally never been better. He’s had some impressive work in films like The Last King Of Scotland and Atonement, but here he shines, expertly making each personality seem like a fully realized person. He changes everything about himself with each role, his posture, the way he holds his hands, even little things. Hedwig slouches a lot, Patricia is always upright. I know the Oscars will forget him, and that’s a shame. Anya taylor Joy is also very good here, giving another strong performance. She was one of the best things about Morgan, and she continues to prove she’s a future star here. Also, Betty Buckley is pretty great. Shyamalan does a great job of creating a sense of terror and dread, building terror, without the use of jump scares or horror tropes. I was really impressed that there are ZERO jump scares here. He lets the score build tension, and asks the audience to be smart enough to wait for the payoff.
What Doesn’t Work: I have a few tiny issues, but they all lie in spoiler territory. None of them are major, just a few questions I felt were unanswered. I guess we’ll have to wait for the sequel.
Final Word: If you missed Split in theatres, you should definitely catch it at home. It’s a really great thriller. It’s not gory or full of jump scares. It’s the kind o smart, original, perfectly crafted horror film that I love, that we just do not get enough of. Instead we get tons of haunted house films and demonic possession films that all look like they’re the same thing. This is different, and it’s beautiful in its complexity.
Final Grade: A