The latest offering from writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan proves that the auteur has regained his stride. Shyamalan is BACK, big time. After the godawful deuces of THE HAPPENING and THE LAST AIRBENDER, we feared we’d lost him, and hipster Internet hacks decided it was fashionable to heap insult and scorn upon him—
kinda like it is now with Nicholas Cage. As with Cage, the criticism is warranted, or WAS warranted, in Shyamalan’s case. He himself has admitted that he lost his way, that he “sold out,” and that the movies he made after said shilling-out were of inferior quality. The hipsters must back off, now, though. Shyamalan redeemed himself a little bit with DEVIL, then a lot more with THE VISIT. With SPLIT, he’s consigned his recent failures into a Mandela Effect-type parallel reality. The guy is at the top of his game again. Welcome back, brah!
So why are we talking about SPLIT here? Because, peeps, it is most assuredly a werewolf movie. There are no fangs, no fur, no full moon or silver bullets. What Shyamalan offers us is far scarier. The central character suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, aka multiple personalities. He has 23 of them, but a fourth is emerging, a being known only as “The Beast.” A cabal of the more prominent personalities has kidnapped three teenage girls for the Beast to consume when it finally arrives, which of course it does by the end of the film. Nor is it a disappointment when we meet it. Neither is it MERELY another personality. (That’s why I’m referring to it as an “it” and not a person.) Examining the murky depths wherein the human mind connects to the human soul, and to perhaps things beyond it, the movie offers us a genuinely terrifying monster in human form.
In terms of the acting, James McAvoy delivers one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. That’s not hyperbole. I don’t know who will win the best actor award at the Oscars this year. Doubtless it will be someone good, perhaps even someone deserving. But I guarantee you, whoever it is, he won’t be any better than McAvoy. Yet because this is a Horror movie—oh, yes, my friends, it is—McAvoy won’t even be considered. Unless your name is Anthony Hopkins, you don’t get any love from the Academy for a genre effort, no matter how superb you are. (Which is just one of the many reasons why the Oscars have severely limited credibility.) McAvoy is nothing less than stunning in his portrayal of all those distinct personalities. I’m not overselling it, peeps; where acting is concerned, his performance is as good as it gets.
Shyamalan’s films, before the parallel reality ones, used to be known for the big twist, the big surprise you never saw coming. Does SPLIT have such a twist? It does indeed, but it isn’t the kind of twist you were expecting. That final scene—holy f*ck! That’s all I’ll say about it. Holy f*cking f*uck!
Go see this movie!