Film Review: Split (2016)

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Writer: M Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy

Synopsis: When Casey (Taylor-Joy) and her two friends are kidnapped, they soon discover that their kidnapper (McAvoy) has multiple personalities – some less friendly than others.

This is the second Blumhouse Productions film for Shyamalan, after the promising-at-first-but-dreadful-by-the-end The Visit (2015). Blumhouse are well-regarded for producing generally high quality horror films on a low budget. Because of the budgets being relatively low, they’re more willing to take a risk than some other production companies necessarily would. And these days, sadly, a new Shyamalan movie always feels like something of a risk.

In the wrong hands, Split could have been a horrendous mess. Yet, it’s thanks to stand-out performances from the increasingly reliable Taylor-Joy and of course McAvoy that make the movie just about work.

It starts off well enough, with Casey and her friends being kidnapped by McAvoy, waking up in a room from which there seems to be no escape. Then other personalities within McAvoy’s character start to visit them, all with their own agendas. McAvoy puts in some great performances, switching between the different personalities with real skill. It takes some getting used to in parts, particularly with the personality of a young boy, but he really pulls it off.

There’s some tension throughout, though no real scares to speak of. It was strange that an intelligent film-maker such as Shyamalan took the opportunity to write a scene where the girls were asked to take their clothes off for some half-baked reason, so they spend the rest of their film in their underwear. That seemed a little pointless and very off-putting. Shyamalan also puts in a number of scenes where he seems to be attempting to explain that what’s happening with McAvoy’s character could in fact happen in real-life and is based on scientific research. Maybe it could, to a degree, but these scenes detract from the tension and overall plot, and by the end you know that all scientific research it may have been based on has now been thrown out of the window.

Much has been made of the very last scene, with Shyamalan himself spoiling it within weeks of the movie originally being released. For those who know the scene (not posting any spoilers here), it felt very tacked on and contrived. Yet it also made me slightly excited for a future Shyamalan film – something that hasn’t happened for a long time.

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