From the writer-director of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable & The Visit, Split is a small-scale psychological horror that marks another right step in M. Night Shyamalan’s road to recovery and finds him making skillful use of his rediscovered creativity & passion to put up a simple structured, competently crafted & morbidly humoured chiller that’s dark, mysterious & wickedly amusing.
The story of Split follows a trio of teenage girls who are abducted by a man diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and who has manifested a total of 23 different personalities so far. With no one to rely on but each other, the girls try to compel one of his identities to help them escape and must do so before the emergence of a far sinister & frightful 24th persona.
Written & directed by M. Night Shyamalan whose filmmaking career has seen both soaring highs & crushing lows, Split is a more confidently executed feature from him that makes efficient use of all his trademarks, and keeps its tense vibe alive from beginning to end. The characters do lack flesh on their arcs and are thinly sketched but their predicament is still relatable to an extent.
Shot majorly in a single location, the isolated setting do bring a sense of unease into the story and it is further enhanced by the smooth handling, sharp focus & controlled movements of the camera. Editing briskly paces its 117 minutes narrative, few scenes are drawn out longer than required but its eerie tone rarely goes away. The film keeps throwing surprises throughout its runtime and few of them manage to stick.
Coming to the performances, the cast consists of James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley & Haley Lu Richardson, with McAvoy & Taylor-Joy chipping in with commendable work. Not all the 23 identities appear but McAvoy does well with whichever ones make it to the final print. Taylor-Joy is just as good if not more and the moments between the two make up for the film’s best segments, plus it only gets better as plot progresses.
On an overall scale, Split is a well-directed, well-scripted & well-performed horror that may not be as memorable as the finest examples of its genre or even Shyamalan’s best works but it definitely ranks as one of his better directional efforts. Enjoyable, entertaining & quite satisfying, Split is a thrilling ride that keeps the viewers engaged in its premise from start to finish and wraps itself up with a game-changing final twist that no one saw coming. And for that alone, it’s worth a watch.