M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S SPLIT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Split is creepy genre skewering from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, and without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t yet had it spoiled, it’s the sort of picture that works as one thing for most of its running time, before morphing into something else by its conclusion; was this always the intention?  James McAvoy is totally wild and completely on fire in the leading role, or should I say, multiple leading roles as a guy battling intense multiple personality disorder, and possibly something else, while the trio of young actresses playing the captured girls are all excellent. There’s some great use of cramped-quarters camera placement by the inventive cinematographer Michael Gioulakis, and West Dylan Thordson’s unnerving music sets a hostile atmosphere that’s maintained all throughout the picture, despite it being a bit too long in the tooth; had this been a lean and mean 90-minuter I think it might’ve been more effective. But this is another low-budget success for Shyamalan, who seems to have recaptured his early-career groove.

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I’m also not sure how smart or classy it was of Shyamalan to use sexually/emotionally exploitive content within the parameters of a silly genre flick; aspects to this film are sort of icky and surprisingly crass and ultimately unnecessary when thought about in retrospect. At least for me. Because this is another trick-narrative from the king of modern trick narratives, there could have been multiple ways for the story to develop, and I’m sort of at a loss to understand why he felt that certain thematic elements were necessary, especially when there’s  very little emotional payoff in these instances. Still, it’s lots of mostly ridiculous fun (if not as enjoyable overall as Shyamalan’s previous picture, the superb and totally wicked black comedy/horror item The Visit), Haley Lu Richardson continues to be extremely photogenic, and the reveal during the final scene will certainly make lots of people giddy with excitement over the various possibilities of what’s in store for this particular cinematic universe…

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