After the debacle of "The Happening" which without hesitation I dub the worst movie I've ever seen, I swore I would never see another M. Night Shyamalan film.
He had emerged as one of my favorite filmmakers after "The Sixth Sense". I loved "UNBREAKABLE" and "Signs". All three were great films with superb visual style wrapped around great storytelling.
Then came "The Village" with its twist ending that made me groan out loud, "Lady In The Water" which made me too sleepy to make any noise beyond snoring and then "The Happening", woof.
I've managed to skip every film sense, but decided to lift my self imposed ban with SPLIT.
James McAvoy stars as a man with 23 different personalities, some kind, some childlike and some very, very bad.
As the film opens, he kidnaps three teenage girls that awaken in a locked basement room. They're soon visited by many different folks, all in the same body.
McAvoy is excellent as every personality. Whether he is nine year old Hedwig, Jade-a kind woman who feels bad for the girls, or the malevolent Kevin, McAvoy is by turns funny, gentle or evil as hell. There's not a false moment in his entire performance.
M Night does his best writing in years, flashing back to one of the girls as a young child and informing her history gradually.
Betty Buckley does a very nice job as Dr. Fletcher, who has diagnosed our man and knows all his personalities.
Many of those personalities are telling her about the 24th personality that is soon to arrive.
The less you know going in the better.
The final 30 minutes is taut and terrific. Whatever you do, don't leave after the end titles start. M Night saves his best surprise for a short sequence after the first title card that turns the entire film on its head. It's an absolute THRILL.
Anya Taylor-Joy was great in "The Witch" and is equally strong here as a troubled girl in the worst of circumstances.
Special kudos to both the Main Titles, which somehow recall the legendary main titles of both "Psycho" and "Bullitt" and the music score by West Dylan Thorson, who is a new composer to me but delivers one of the most haunting, scary and suspenseful scores in memory.
For fans of his earlier work, SPLIT is a great return to form in more ways than one.
I thought my vow to never see another M Night film was UNBREAKABLE, but I'm glad I broke it. SPLIT delivers the goods and gets a solid B.