For so long the words An M. Night Shyamalan film was something to be dreaded. Then The Visit showed that Shyamalan could still produce a decent if unremarkable movie. Now his latest movie Split is supposedly a return to form and last night I got a chance to see an advance screening of the film before it’s general UK release on Friday.
Three teenagers are kidnapped by a man named Kevin (James McAvoy) who suffers from a form of dissociative identity disorder. Kevin has 23 distinct personality and the 24th is on it’s way, and the girls must escape before he arrives.
Breathe a sigh of relief everyone, for Shyamalan is well and truly back. Long may the likes of The Lady in the Water and The Happening remain a distant memory ! In all serious though Split was a great movie and I really enjoyed watching it. Instead of getting lost on a tangent Shyamalan’s focus seems much clearer in Split, with the story and pacing feeling much tighter then his previous efforts.
The cast is good, and Anna Taylor-Joy makes good on her early promise in The Witch as one of the kidnapped girls. However this is McAvoy’s show, who despite playing numerously distinct different personalities doesn’t descend into caricatures or overacts. Each performace is finely judged and flips between creepy, to humorous to compassionate without drawing you out of the moment.
For those expecting more out and out horror Split is more about building tension and the fear of whether personality number 24 actually exist and what they will be like if they do come out. Some may also be disappointed that, despite the film’s marketing focusing heavily on Kevin’s 23 personalities, we only see a select number of them.
So not up there with The Six Sense or, my personal favourite of his, Unbreakable but Split shows there’s still hope for Shyamalan’s career yet.
Oh and if you are thinking of going to see Split I would do it soon as the last scene is something a lot of people will be talking about (the audience I saw it with was buzzing with chatter as soon as the film ended). So see it before someone spoils it for you.
Rating 4/5 – with some help from McAvoy, Shyamalan is back to making good films-at last!
Once M. Night Shyamalan was Hollywood’s golden boy with critical and commercial successes like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, then came a string of flops that relied too heavily on his infamous twist endings. Now with his new film The Visit will this be a return to form?
Young siblings Becca (Olivia Delonge) and Taylor (Ed Oxenbould) are visiting their grandparents while their mum (Kathryn Hahn) is away. Due to a mysterious falling out between their mum and her parents they haven’t met them before and Becca is filing a documentary about their visit to give her mum some closure. At first Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop’s (Peter McRobbie) antics appear to be down to being old and eccentric, but then become something much more weirder. What is wrong with their grandparents?
The Visit is not on the same level as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable but thankfully is much better than Lady in the Water and The Happening. What Shyamalan’s earlier work excelled in was his direction of young talent and Oxenbould and Delonge are fantastic. They are likeable, funny and sympathetic. They made for relatable protagonists and as we’re seeing events through their eyes (or technically through their cameras) if they were unbearable brats then we wouldn’t care what is happening. McRobbie and Dunagan are also well played going effectively between likeably quirky and just plain creepy, while Hahn is also good in her supporting role.
I thought the ‘found footage’ method would annoy me but Shyamalan actually does well in giving the kids reasons to keep the camera working and only a few instances towards the end do you think they should just drop the bloody cameras already. The format also does add tension to many scenes as Becca and Taylor sneak around with their cameras.
Unfortunately I did guess the film’s big twist which made said revelation underwhelming, although I didn’t figure everything out. While there was underlying tension and chills throughout, the film could have been much more scarier to be fully effective. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Shyamalan. Maybe he just needs to cast Bruce Willis in a leading role for his next film to be a smash hit?
Rating 3/5 – for once in a long time Shyamalan has brought us a movie that isn’t a complete chore to watch