If you aren't familiar with M Night Shyamalan's newest film, Split, you are absolutely missing out. This is the film that is going to revitalize Shyamalan's career and will go down in history as one of James McAvoy's finest performances.
Psychological horror is a really tricky sub-genre, as it doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone. Often times these films can come across as slow, or too deep for it's own good. They can be "too smart" and alienate a large portion of the audience who just want to sit back and relax while watching a film. This is where Split is different. It's intelligent while remaining exciting. This is the first film since I saw The Void earlier this year to actually scare me.
James McAvoy plays Kevin, a character suffering from dissociative identity disorder, otherwise known as multiple personality disorder. Kevin has 23 distinct personalities, and McAvoy plays each one to perfection. It's quite the feat that he was able to portray so many different characters and transition seamlessly between each. He switches between the childlike Hedwig, the legitimately frightening Dennis and the personality who is in control, Barry with ease. I truly believe that the superb performance of McAvoy is what made this film. His facial expressions, his movements, his tone of voice, everything he did really brought each personality to life.
Split can be an uncomfortable movie to watch, and that is what horror is about. The horror genre is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, it is supposed to make you feel fear. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, this movie hit those elements perfectly. The character of Kevin is unpredictable, and in that unpredictability is where the fear comes from. You never know what he will do next, and you never know which personality will appear. The major plot point is that the personality of Dennis takes over and kidnaps three young girls. Kidnapping films already cause people to feel uncomfortable, as it is a very real occurrence. Add someone who is essentially 23 different people as the kidnapper, and you have a recipe for a very uncomfortable film.
The girls really come across as typical high school aged girls, and the acting isn't bad. Anya Taylor-Joy (also stars in The Witch) plays Casey. Casey is the stereotypical loner who gets in trouble a lot. She becomes a calming force throughout the movie, and really shines in her handling of the situation. While the other girls that were kidnapped work on plans to fight their captor, Casey stays calm and rational. It's a nice juxtaposition, and works well throughout the entire film. As the film goes on, you learn more and more about Casey, and all I can really say is that it's hard to watch. M Night Shyamalan has done an incredible job with creating these characters, and Casey is no exception.
Split is extremely well done, and I regret not seeing this sooner. M Night Shyamalan has had a rough few years, with most of his films receiving poor critical reception. I firmly believe that this is the film to bring him back into the spotlight, and show what he is really capable of. If you've been debating checking this one out, I cannot urge you enough to see it. It's a deep horror film that can really appeal to fans all across the genre.
If you've seen Split, let me know in the comments. Did you like it? Did you hate it? What did you think of James McAvoy's performance? I look forward to hearing from all of you.