Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley
M. Night has been through quite the journey, like a friend who has their highs and lows and as you watch it all happen you wish you could have helped more in the lows but you definitely re-live the highs in your memories since they were so much fun. It’s a nice story of instant fame, a nice little dip into “what the hell?,” acceptance then a realization that pleasing everyone is a thankless and uphill battle so the most sane option is to move forward with intention and let the audience be the spectators, not the judges.
Let’s be CLEAR, this man has already earned his spot in the horror hall of fame, albeit the haters, his contributions to the genre are already solidified so no need to argue your position, you’re WRONG. Flicks like The Sixth Sense and Signs still linger in the spines of audiences everywhere with his signature slow builds, sudden suspense and yes, the twist endings that made him famous in the first place. Even flicks with horror tones (but not quite horror) were brilliant such as Unbreakable which to me, was one of the most realistic takes on the super hero genre, WAY ahead of its time. Then a funny thing happened. Like I said, it was like watching a friend because to me, it seemed M. Night started making films based off his new found fame rather than his passions. I could be completely wrong but from my perspective, he was beginning to make movies for the sake of seeing the bold letters of his name on the big screen. It seemed there was no reason to some of his theatrical ventures after the success of his first 3-5 films (now this can be completely arguable, depending who you are) and now it felt this friend of mine was stuck into making movies for the sake of his fame rather than his passions.
Of course, the fans were more than nasty (no the cool macabre kind of nasty…like, idiots in their parents basement nasty) and M. Night felt the sting. There was a period where it seemed like he wanted peace away from it all and then a funny thing happened; he started slowly coming back with some nice gems that didn’t get the shine of his first couple flicks but you can tell he was having fun making movies again. He wanted to tell a story and he was going to do it his way to follow through on his vision and we the audience can have our take on what was on the screen but it felt like we weren’t his number one concern, which was fantastic. The flick that solidified in my ghoulish soul that my friend was back was a brilliant concept that had all the beats of what made this man a legend, the brilliant gem that is SPLIT.
The plot was simple (or at least seems simple), which was right on target with his style; a man with split personalities kidnaps a group of high school girls so they can meet the ultimate monster personality, simply known as The Beast. The premise alone had me fumbling my wallet to throw my money at M. Night but watching the movie itself felt more like an experience than just simply watching a movie. It did feel like M. Night was putting his passions for what made him famous in the first place on stage for all to see. Like a message saying, “Hey folks, it’s been a while but yeah, I’m back” which made the movie even more enjoyable. It wasn’t obnoxious in stating he was back but again, it was like a friend that did some questionable things and instead of a long speech or a grande comeback, it was like a subtle nod and a smirk just to let folks know he’s back and he’s learned.
Now onto the performances; I understand horror sometimes doesn’t get the artistic props it deserves but Good Lord, can we get James McAvoy an Oscar already? Yeah, I get it, most folks would thin this was hyperbole but really, his performance in SPLIT was almost dizzying. There were moments where I genuinely had to remind myself that all these people he was playing was one person, one very sick person but a person nonetheless. You had such an array of different personalities, each could have had their own damn movies since they were all so intriguing. To name a few, you had the scary mother type, the kid who seems oblivious to the evils going on or at least ignoring the terror he was causing, and the controlling persona who struggles with OCD but is laser focused on the goals. Each one had their own opinions and thoughts on the current matter of the kidnapped ladies and how The Beast would be the one who would bring terror to the world, sort of like a cult but all the members played by one person. Anya Taylor-Joy was a joy to watch because as much as she is a super star now, I would say that this flick was when she was at her precipice of becoming one of Hollywood’s elite players. It was nice to see her talent inflate throughout the movie and seeing her everywhere now in movies, series, etc. makes you super proud that you got to watch her develop her talent in a movie that was already chock full of talent.
As I was enjoying this flick, I remember thinking that it was checking all the boxes of what made a great M. Night offering but of course, a part of me was thinking if there was going to be a twist at the end. To be quite honest, the twist part is not really in the top of my priorities when it comes to M. Night’s work, only bc it’s not a sustainable reputation because you can only wow the audience so many times but yeah, I admit I was curious if it was going to happen. By the end of the flick, there was a slight twist in the sense where the ending was sort of expected but executed in an interesting way but again, no big because I loved the movie overall.
…then came the ACTUAL ending, the epilogue scene if you will.
And I’ll leave it at that.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.