What it is: The newest film from twist-loving genre auteur M. Night Shyamalan. James McAvoy plays a guy with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) who kidnaps three teenage girls in order to feed them to a sinister identity of his known as “the Beast.”
Starting with 2006’s Lady in the Water and continuing through The Happening and The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan entered a phase of his career in which every film he directed was so bad that it made you say, “Well, at least his next movie will have to be better than this,” and then somehow his next movie would be even worse. I can’t say whether or not After Earth and The Visit continued that trend, since by the time they were released I had given up on the guy. As disappointing as that decline was, it did at least result in one of my funniest moviegoing experiences: Seeing the trailer for Devil in theaters and hearing everyone in the audience groan in unison when Shyamalan’s name appeared onscreen.
Still, I liked his earlier movies a lot, and I’d heard some good things about both this and The Visit. (And Devil itself is actually somewhat fun, though Shyamalan just provided the story for it.) More importantly, I heard that Split had a big crazy twist at the end and wanted to see it before that twist got spoiled for me. So, after six months of doing this blog, we’ve finally arrived at the first project I would’ve made a point of checking out even if it hadn’t reached #1.
And it’s fine. McAvoy’s scenery-chewing performance(s?) is/are fun, and this is certainly a step up from Shyamalan’s late-’00s work. But although the twist did succeed at surprising me, it’s also kind of dumb and annoying, for reasons that I think are obvious enough upon viewing that it isn’t worth spoiling the whole thing to discuss it any further.
It’s also funny that this movie goes out of its way to ground its portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder in reality by using the correct term for it and referring to real-life cases, but then goes on to assert that people with the condition (which some experts don’t think even exists) are magical supervillains. One step forward, two steps back.