Since partnering with Blumhouse Productions, M. Night Shyamalan has been experiencing a much need resurrection. His failures have been detailed heavily over the years. After nailing perfection with The Sixth Sense, a pop culture phenomenon regarding Haley Joel Osment saying “I see dead people” and perhaps the best executed twist ending in the history of cinema, Shyamalan’s career began a downward spiral.
Unbreakable and Signs were successful but were unable to compare to The Sixth Sense. Then came Lady In The Water, The Village, The Happening and The Last Airbender. All of which have been forgotten or seen as comically awful.
On top of these failed films, in 2004 Shyamalan while promoting The Village on SyFy made up a “true” account of how he was legally dead for 30 minutes as a child and saw the other side, which lead to his obsession with the supernatural. In 2013, his career was so tarnished that during the promotion of his latest film, After Earth the studio wanted it to be unknown and not discussed that Shyamalan was the director.
With the success of The Visit and Split, it’s nice to see Shyamalan return to being a director worth viewing and not an Ed Wood/ Uwe Boll director whose films are watched ironically.
Split has been overall critically acclaimed but viewed by some as degrading those with mental health issues. It seems like the only people who complain about this tend to be people who don’t suffer from mental health issues or people who want the spotlight on them, condemning this film for a moment and then ranting endlessly about their own struggle in the most narcissistic fashion.
I had my doubts about Split but M. Night Shyamalan delivered. The film is beautifully shot and with an alleged nine million dollar budget it looks better than most films with a forty million dollar budget.
Within five minutes with jump into the action with a great opening scene. It’s amazing how the guy who has directed multiple dull boring films that cease to go anywhere is also capable of directing an opening scene as great as the one in Split.
Split is a horror film but thankfully doesn’t suffer from over the top jump scares with an overbearing film score. Sometimes such a thing is tolerable in horror films and something one has to accept. Other times, like earlier this week when I saw the trailer for the new Annabelle film, it’s a complete nuisance and you realize it’s doing its best to cover up the lack of quality. Split’s horror instead comes from the creepy and horrible conflicts of life that the characters suffer from.
This year in particular has been an altering and shocking change for Blumhouse Productions. The production company behind some of the worst poorly made films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister have went into a completely different direction with films like Split and Get Out, two quality horror films that unlike the titles mentioned previously, linger in the mind and haunt you.
The performances in Split similar to the script are of high quality. Anya-Taylor Joy who wasn’t even old enough to drink when filming this delivers an incredible performance as a strong female lead. It’s great to see a quality performance like hers in a genre that usually features a porno level quality of acting.
Of course there’s also James McAvoy who steps up to the plate and delivers in this supervillain origin tale of Kevin Wendell Crumb. His character has 24 personalities and I believe 8 are shown on screen. It takes a true talent to be able to portray eight different characters successfully over the short time of two hours and only someone with the talent of McAvoy could have pulled it off. This and Filth demonstrate how he’s one of the great male leads of our time.
I was really surprised by the disturbing nature of Split. I won’t give much away but there are unpredictable disturbing parts you might not see coming in this film. Flashbacks that are used within Split were reminiscent of the ones used in Midnight Cowboy to me, they somewhat go unexplained and add another layer to the film.
The Visit was a decent fun low budget horror film but with Split, M. Night Shyamalan shows what he has always been capable of. He has taken things that have been beating into the ground like films where the villain has split personality disorder and the superhero genre and successfully putting his own spin onto these tropes.
Split is not only an impressive psychological horror film but a wonderful return to the level of quality we remember from the beginning of M. Night Shyamalan’s career.