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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Split 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

SplitDirector: M. Night Shyamalan
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Becky Buckley

M. Night Shyamalan directed The Sixth Sense. To this day, that film still creeps me the heck out. It has taken seventeen years for Night to make my psyche go all frazzled again. Hence, I give you 2016's Split (my latest review).

Now the oddest thing about Split, is that it doesn't feel like India's favorite son was even behind the camera. Shyamalan relies on the personalities of other directors (just like Split's main lead actor, ha). And the only thing similar is that his flick takes place in Philadelphia (Shyamalan's hometown and go-to setting). Was there some Dan Trachtenberg or Sam Raimi influence involved? Oh for sure. Nevertheless, Split is traumatizing, upsetting, and unsettling. M. Night uses a handful of close-ups, effective flashbacks, and the absence of a blatant surprise twist to enhance his vision. Reluctantly, he gives his characters a few moments of screen time to breathe. Then his film puts them through torrid, psychological hell.

Image result for Split movie scenesSplit isn't ghostly scary or even demon scary. It's more on the tripped out, cognitive tip. Without a happy ending or any kind of loosening resolve, this film caused me to leave the theater shaken. Heck, my pulse felt totally out of order. Granted, I'm not giving Split a favorable rating for its entertainment value. I recommending it for how it affected me and how it gave me a corresponding feeling when I saw 2014's Tusk. Hopelessness, raw fear, despair, gnawing demoralization. M. Night is back. Yup, he's back with a spurred vengeance baby!

Anyway, Split is about a messed up individual, a stifling son of a bitch. Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy) is said individual and he has 23 personalities ("23" is a screwed up number to begin with). He kidnaps three young females and holds them captive below the famed, Philadelphia, PA Zoo. In a candid interview, McAvoy said that he only channeled 9 of the 23 weirdos throughout Split's 117-minute running time. No matter. His performance here is towering and startlingly good. You forget that a trouper is actually inhabiting this role. For the most part, you hold on to the fact that this is a real fracked person. As for McAvoy's co-stars (Anna Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula), well they convey a realistic level of heightened distress. Douglas Aibel's casting of these young, unknown thespians is right on. I would put them in another horror conundrum any day. Believe it.

Overall, Split with its claustrophobia, its kind of movement for a sequel, and its sense of sunlight absence, is destined to become a classic. It's M. Night Shyamalan's way of giving the middle finger to all the critics who have ribbed him over the past 10-12 years. Oh and by the way, look for the Bruce Willis cameo at the end. Dang, it's been awhile since I've seen old Brucie in an actual, mainstream movie. Also, be on the lookout for Betty Buckley as Crumb's sympathetic psychologist. She was Miss Collins from 1976's infamous Carrie. Welcome back Betty. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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