Split review: M Night Shyamalan twists again like it's 1998 with this return to reform split personality movie

 
James Luxford
Split
4.0

Come on let’s twist again, like we did in the early 2000s. It’s been a long time since a new M Night Shyamalan film was greeted with excitement.

With a miserable streak of flops including The Happening, The Last Airbender and Will Smith misfire After Earth, many had given up on the twist-loving film maker until 2015’s The Visit, which signalled a slight return to form.

He continues that ascendancy with Split, the story of three young girls held captive by Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with dissociative identity disorder whose 23 different personas fight for attention, while warning the girls of a nightmarish 24th personality named The Beast.

Taking a lot of influence from Hitchcock, the story gets inside your mind in a way few horror-thrillers can, bringing life to the creative premise with a wicked seam of dark humour – something sorely missing from Shyamalan’s earlier work.

McAvoy appears to relish his time away from the X-Men’s green screens, putting in an incredibly versatile performance that breathes life into the many different personas. Not quite as prominent, but equally interesting, is The Witch star Anna Taylor-Joy, adding a lot more to the story than a simple scared captive.

An absence of the standard Shyamalan twist is notable – there is a reveal of sorts but not quite the rug pull he’s famous for – showing how much the director has matured over the last decade. In Split, he’s created a film that rivals the films that once made him one of Hollywood’s hottest young directors.

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