Cult of personalities
To say that M. Night Shyamalan has been in a creative rut the last several years is a bit of an understatement. During the late 90s, the director had become infamous for creating some memorable films with some surreal twists that were really surprising and remain so to this day. Sadly, Night is now famous for directing half-par horror films with plot twists that are just as convoluted as the acting (The Happening anyone?) with many fans now writing him off as a director who has lost his touch with both his dedicated audience and common moviegoers especially after the debacle that was the ill-fully adapted The Last Airbender. With the likes of The Conjuring, Lights Out and 10 Cloverfield Lane, which has started a new renaissance for horror films developed on a small budget and relying mostly on practical effects, Night has taken a few cues from this re-surging genre and has gone back to his basic roots in the form of Split. After leaving a party, three teenage girls are kidnapped by a deranged man called Dennis (James McAvoy), whose personality is revealed to be one of 23 that inhabit the same body. The girls awaken in an unknown cellar and try to assess the situation of what is going on before they are confronted by Patricia, another personality, informing the girls that they are here for the awakening of the 24th personality referred to as "The Beast". The girls realize that the personalities are distinct from each other and don't know what the others are thinking. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) uses the situation to see which of the personalities will help them escape before the ominous Beast is awakened. Horror-thrillers are some of my least favorite films, not because I'm scared of them (which I'm not) but mainly because a majority of them fail to either impress or scare me. Surprisingly, Split is a notch above the mediocrity I've come to expect in the genre and I can honestly say that Night has finally returned to form if just slightly imperfect. James McAvoy does a magnificent job in his role(s) which I can only imagine was quite the endeavor to portray so many different characters. Night's direction has improved (or should I say it's back to what it used to be?) which helps keep the film's pace from stagnating too much while keeping it interesting because there is a lot of talking and if you're not paying attention, you'll miss out on some key plot points; if I had to nitpick, that would be my only complaint about the film. Split isn't an overly scary film if compared to Night's previous works nor is it his best film but it is definitely a sign of the director's quality improving and with a follow-up sequel already announced, there's hope that this may be the second coming of M. Night Shyamalan.