Sunday, 22 January 2017

Split: 23 Shades of Creepy

After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.

Think Room meets The Missing at 10 Cloverfield Lane. Having seen Split, it is a very good time to be a M. Night Shyamalan fan. Split might be M. Night Shyamalan most compellingly warped concoction to date its genre trappings, acting merely as gateway drugs to the altogether more insanely interesting thriller taking place in Kevin's head. Shyamalan puts all his trust in his audience as he sets up various story elements here and there that won't be fully understood till you have seen the full movie; we learn about characters and the big picture becomes so much more impactful afterwards. 

The more we learn, the scarier McAvoy's character(s) starts to sound. Split goes all-in on McAvoy slipping from persona to persona, and luckily the man has the acting skills to do so. Indeed, James McAvoy might be one of the most underrated actors nowadays. I loved him in every movie he has done so far, he is excellent, insanely courageous, fully committed and it pays off. Every personality is specifically distinguishable just by his different vocal pattern and his mannerism. Nominate this man right now. This is the role of his career. 

Usually, when a character talks to a shrink it is because the screenwriter couldn't find a more elegant way to weave in exposition. However with this film, despite being a horror-thriller, the most fascinating moments are the ones, McAvoy spends on Dr Fletcher's couch. Betty Buckley has an amazing character as she tries to cure Kevin. She shines and brings a lot to the proper film. Plus, Anya Taylor-Joy's character back story is beautiful and haunting. She was very impressive in The Witch and is even finer here as a deceptively docile captive whose passivity masks both intelligence and gumption. yet it would be foolish to suggest this is anything but McAvoy's movie. 

Here's where I mention that Split resembles Psycho when the screenplay makes some riskier moves. Shyamalan's love of tricks is very much alive and well. He also hired the director of photography of It Follows and it really paid off because Split has some brilliant claustrophobic camera work, the lighting is superb, this is a great looking movie. the score is refreshingly subtle. Sometimes you won't even notice how it will be creeping into a scene, while slowly building an intense aura of dreadfulness. 

Finally, I loved the ending, I won't spoil anything for you but you know I do love me some good ending. There's a neutron bomb dropped in the final scene that essentially reframes everything you just saw. It isn't a whopping reveal like the one in The Sixth Sense. For a movie nerd like me, it is extremely gratifying. For others, it will fly right over their heads and they will wonder why others in the audience are whispering, "Oh my God! NO WAY!". I am so genuinely excited by the ending of this movie, the implication it has and what it can mean for Shyamalan's fans, the future and what he can do with his career.

Overall, Split is a masterful blend of Hitchcock, horror and therapy session. The storytelling is amazingly brave because Night Shyamalan ultimately trusts his audience.

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