(US - 2017)
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Izzie Coffey, M. Night Shyamalan, Neil Huff. (PG-13, 118 mins)
While most viewed 2015's THE VISIT as a comeback for wunderkind-turned-pariah M. Night Shyamalan, I was in the minority and hated it with a near-blind fury that even LADY IN THE WATER and THE LAST AIRBENDER couldn't touch. A tardy trendhop onto the found footage bandwagon, THE VISIT was the most cynical move yet in the cratering of Shyamalan's career and I was pretty much ready to write him off for good. But now there's SPLIT, an ingenious and ambitious horror film that's easily his best work since the post-SIXTH SENSE glory days of UNBREAKABLE and SIGNS. A complex Hitchcockian mindfuck, SPLIT opens with three teenage girls--birthday girl Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), her best friend Marcia (Jessica Sula), and quiet outcast Casey (THE WITCH's Anya Taylor-Joy)--being abducted from a shopping mall parking lot and kept in a locked room in a vast basement. Their captor is Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), who suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder and has 23 personalities existing within him. The girls were kidnapped by OCD neat-freak "Dennis," and the girls soon meet the prim, proper, British-accented "Miss Patricia," who wears a dress and explains that "Dennis knows he can't touch you.""Hedwig" is an eager-to-please, nine-year-old boy who knows what Dennis and Miss Patricia are up to: the two biggest troublemakers of the 23 personalities, they've planned an internal revolt and launched a coup in Kevin's mind, with Dennis even going so far as to pretend to be the affable, laid-back amateur fashion designer "Barry," the personality who regularly represents Kevin in his appointments with psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), and the most conscientious and good-hearted of "The Horde," the collective name given to Kevin's personalities. All of this is to prepare for the coming of "The Beast," a powerful 24th personality brewing within the deepest recesses of Kevin's mind. Dr. Fletcher senses something is off about Barry in her sessions ("I'm gonna guess that you're....Dennis?" she asks at one point, and Dennis denies it) and is alarmed by the number of urgent e-mails he sends her, wanting to meet with her to warn her that something bad is about to happen but always overpowered when either Dennis or Miss Patricia step into "the light" or, the center of Kevin's head, making it necessary for Dennis to pass himself off as Barry to keep Dr. Fletcher from digging further.