It’s a strange thing to finally be able to be optimistic about an M. Night Shyamalan movie again. For so many years he faltered under the weight of studios investing too much money in him. One day it was The Happening, the next After Earth, each more disappointing than the last. Then, last September, he finally got his mojo back. After his wickedly entertaining low budget horror comedy The Visit, Shyamalan has finally figured out his formula for success; intimate settings, black humor, and crazy characters. Judging by the first trailer for Split, Shyamalan has created his wackiest character (or should I say characters) yet.
Split centers on a group of young women (lead by The Witch’s Anya Taylor Joy) who find themselves kidnapped. However, their assailant (James McAvoy) has even more screws loose than one would think. He suffers from an intense split personality disorder, with over twenty “people” living inside his head.
Many will look at this trailer and dig in to figure out whatever Shyamalan’s latest twist is. I, however, can’t stop marveling at how incredible McAvoy looks here. He’s spent the last half-decade playing characters that are undeniably likable. His characters have a sincere charm that makes their emotional anguish entirely believable. That can get a little boring after a while, though, and McAvoy really looks like he’s cutting loose here. All of the different personalities have unique voices and ticks, seemingly channeling a much more convoluted version of Norman Bates. It certainly helps that his affliction is partially played for laughs, with Shyamalan allowing some skin crawling moments come simply from quirky line delivery.
It might not be for everybody, but this is the kind of movie that refreshes my palate. After a relentless Oscar season, it’ll be nice to see something so odd.
Split opens on January 20th
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Michael Fairbanks is a lifelong film lover from San Diego, California. His favorite movies include The Dark Knight, Silver Linings Playbook, and As Good As It Gets. In addition to The Nerd Stash, Fairbanks writes for both The Young Folks, and his own blog, entitled Fairbanks on Film.