Brand New, Old School
I find it interesting that M. Night Shyamalan films have shouted incredibly loudly that HE is the director. He has become the label, the brand, of his own films.
Thanks to the success of the Sixth Sense his brand recognition rapidly increased with Shamalangadingdong’s name featured prominently on every trailer since Unbreakable. Yet, whilst this was happening the brand quality took an equally dramatic turn in the opposite direction.
Let’s face it, he has pumped out some crap films. After Earth? Give me a fucking break? The brand became toxic. The brand is Mega Bloks or U2.
Now I didn’t see The Visit – I’ve been assured it’s not total crap so that’s a start! – but Split is a very real attempt to get back to basics by making a decent film rather than rely on branding to sell pond slime dressed up as nutritious wheatgrass.
The trailer still features the brand name but doesn’t dominated it. The budget is much lower than some of his more recent projects and that only works in Split’s favour.
Split is not a horror movie. There are no jump scares. It’s a thriller and as a non-horror fan that was errr… thrilling because we are treated to a film that tries to build a solid plot, steady character progression and decent acting instead of a singular clutch moment: “AHA! The village is an experiment!”. No-one cares.
The trailer shows three girls are kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy); a man with multiple personality disorder. Crumb has a whopping 23 different personalities and some of his personalities are preparing the girls to be offered to the suppressed 24th personality known as “The Beast”.
Split cleverly focuses on only a few personalities allowing the viewer to analyse, identify and even connect to them yet we still get fun glimpses of the others.
James McAvoy is clearly loving every minute and gives him an excuse to display the range of his abilities. It’s the little character traits that make it all so believable and without McAvoy this film would lose much of its appeal.
The reason for this is that the scripting and the acting of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are at best acceptable.
There is also a sub plot of one of the personalities liking young girls and forces the trio to remove clothing. A couple of lingering shots of cleavage and mid-rift seemed unnecessary and uncomfortable to watch and come in place of any genuine feeling of threat to the safety of the girls.
Still, those moments are fleeting in what is genuinely an intriguing concept. The fact that one personality might be diabetic and another might need glasses suggests that the brain can change the physiology of a person, essentially making them superhuman.
The biggest takeaway though is that the film is old school Shyamalan and thanks to that it manages to breath new life into the brand.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ It’s an M. Night Shyamalan film that’s not shit!!!
+ James McAvoy clearly having fun
+ Interesting concept
Side note: Pay close attention to the end scene!
– The girls
– Some questionable cinematography
– Doesn’t feel threatening enough