I have a sadistic relationship with suspenseful films. I hate them so much that I like them, but M. Night Shymalan’s new film Split is more than suspenseful in twists; it is riveting in performances. While plot turns are plenteous in the film, it is the full characters that Shymalan offers to the audience that makes viewers remember that he is the creator of one of the greatest thrillers: The Sixth Sense.
Its been a good while since Shymalan has given audiences a great scare. His past films have been okay to say the least but not exactly ticket-worthy. Yet, Split reminds viewers of Shymalan’s earlier, greater works that were masterpieces, in part, because they were character pieces. In Split, James McCavoy will have viewers flocking to his every move/personality like moths to a flame. The way he uses his body, voice, and complete being is enough to be used as a masterclass sample for fellow actors. His character of Kevin will remind many viewers of Norman Bates from Psycho in that they are both terrifying and tragic. As seen from the trailers, Kevin has 23 personalities and he is about to unleash the monstrous 24th one on the three girls he has kidnapped. While he is horrifying and sporadically cruel, McCavoy gives the character hints of sadness that leave the audience feeling slightly bad for him, especially in his sessions with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). This guy is 23 people in one; I am drained by just being me. The range he gives each persona he embodies allows you to believe his transformation into each character both morally and communally. It is as if Kevin is a community of people that have their own ideas and know the darkness and light each other has they live in his soul/their apartment. Yet, enough gushing over McCavoy, lets talk about the ladies.
While each young woman captures the fear and mental chaos a kidnapped victim undergoes, there is one that has her own penchant for darkness that steals the limelight. Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke is exceptional, and her ability to emanate duality is fascinating to viewers, especially in watching her relationship with Kevin. She may be scared, but she can also be scary, and there are several instances in the film where you feel that she is playing her own game with Kevin or, at least, is smarter to his multiple cunnings then what anyone believes. While her fellow captives are more helpless to their situation, Cooke rises as an attractive character because she is less of a damsel. She, along with McCavoy, make the film suspenseful through their eerie dynamic.
I loved Split, and find it a worthy ticket. It has been awhile since I have seen a film that matched scares with intelligence. Morever, the suspense of Split does not lie in its thrills as much as its characters interactions. It is always interesting to watch people and see how they work towards and against each other, but to watch someone who is 23 people in one person interact with the world is mind-boggling. Split comes out, in theaters, January 20.