Split ★★★★

2017 Films Ranked

If I were to make a list of the most inconsistent directors when looking at each of their respective filmographies, M. Night Shyamalan would probably be somewhere near the top. I haven't seen all of his work but it ranges in quality as he has given us not only one of the best horror movies of all time (The Sixth Sense), but also several awful films including The Last Airbender and Lady in the Water, which are utterly terrible, and I was wondering what his next film would have to offer.

Thankfully though the Shyamalan of recent years at least, since last year's The Visit, has started to improve in quality. That film despite its flaws was an okay found footage horror and Split raises the game, namely thanks to an excellent cast in the form of James McAvoy and The Witch's Anya Taylor-Joy, who put in terrific performances in the lead roles. There's also The Edge of Seventeen's Haley Lu Richardson in a brief supporting role here alongside Jessica Sula, but the real attention is on McAvoy and Taylor-Joy and they both shine.

McAvoy plays a man who can transform between twenty three different personalities, ranging from a scared kid to a woman and to a child-abducting sociopath, and it's a role that the actor plays as though he's having the time of his life. It's really fun watching McAvoy play most of these personalities even though understandably there's only a few that we get to see predominantly over the course of this movie, and each one is developed enough to be distinctive and has their own impact on how things play out in this film. It's done with more care than in some of Shyamalan previous movies, and as a result you get a really complex character (or should I say characters?) in the form of McAvoy's character.

Anya Taylor-Joy's Casey Cooke meanwhile has a troubled past of her own and as a result has a lonely upbringing and is only invited to a birthday party with her fellow classmates because Richardson's Claire takes pity on her as she can't invite everyone in the class but her. Casey is clearly an outsider and prefers the loneliness of detention, so regularly gets into trouble at school just so she can be alone. It's only when nobody shows up to greet her does Claire's dad offer to take her home in his car along with Claire's friend Marcia. However, Claire's dad never gets in the car. Instead it's "Dennis", the more violent of McAvoy's personalities, who abducts them and locks them in a car, taking them hostage. He plans to feed them to the mysterious Beast, the so-called 24th personality, despite disbelief from Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), his psychiatrist, who claims that there is no such thing.

Either way, Casey, Marcia and Claire are trapped and time is running out before they have to escape. The film itself plays out in a very claustrophobic way and if you liked films like 10 Cloverfield Lane & Green Room you'll probably enjoy this one as well. There's a lot of tense moments that really play in the films' favour, and thanks to the unpredictable nature of McAvoy's character, you never know which personality is going to show up next or what they're going to do. Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as well is worth noting, and between her role here and performance in The Witch, there are big things in store for her going forward, she's clearly talented and this film really benefits from strong casting choices.

Split is a well-acted, well-directed and well-plotted thriller/horror movie that will leave you hooked from start to finish with its interesting ideas that are executed really well, keeping the levels of suspense high all the way through, and I'd go so far as to say that this is one of M Night Shyamalan's best movies in years and comes recommended as a result, especially for fans of horror and thriller movies.

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