Film review: Split

At this point it seems that the horror-comedy genre is truly only kept alive by a few purveyors, with the likes of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi having left those aspirations behind. Yet, it is the once shamed director behind the likes of The Happening and, my personal most hated film, The Last Airbender, who has taken the twisty genre confusion of ‘horrody’ and crafted his own unique Shyamalan twist with it.

Following three young women who are abducted by Kevin, a man with dissociative identity disorder, we follow as the women attempt to escape and the warring personalities inside Kevin vie for control of the body.

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film nestles gut-wrenching, nail-biting sequences with lapses of absurdity used sparingly enough to allow for surprise laughs amongst the terror. Continuing his smaller films with better stories from 2015’s The Visit, the script anchors the absurdities of Kevin’s 23 personalities among a harrowing story of societal outcasts and their quiet origins.

Aiding in the incredible coalescing of the script is the ever incredible James McAvoy, who displays the most amount of range and tactical precision in his performance than has been seen in years. Deftly bouncing from one personality to another, he commands his performance by developing each personality of Kevin into a substantially different human being.

It is rarely seen nowadays where an actor will be given full rein to craft their character in such a distinct and fully rounded character but what McAvoy does here is nigh short of brilliance.

Other players, Anya Taylor Joy and Betty Buckley each provide delicate and understated performances that delve into each other’s backstory, while also creating a fleshed-out world for the story to inhabit.

Joy in particular displays a confidence first seen in last years The Witch, that proves hopeful her upcoming roles.

And yet it is the so called ‘Shyamalanaisance’ that is surprising to see from this film as it works so assuredly on every level that it is hard to see where he previously deviated.

Working with Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, best known for his work on It Follows, and editor Luke Ciarrocchi, they have created a raucously good springboard for films in 2017 with a film that is exciting and intensely personal.

I hope to see more films like this in the filmmakers’ futures, as exciting genre films that look to flip ideas on their heads and provide genuine entertainment as good as this.