M. Night Shyamalan rarely disappoints, so news that the master of twists and thrills has released a new trailer for an upcoming project has Shyamalan’s fans buzzing about the internet like a massive migration of hungry honeybees. It isn’t often that the director and writer of films such as Signs (2002) and The Visit (2015) deviates from the suspenseful thrillers for which he has become known, and it seems Split is another of those twisty, stomach-churning tales for which M. Night Shyamalan has become famous.
Split Features A Creepy Performance From James McAvoy
“The beast is real.”
Those may be the most spine-numbing words to be spoken yet this year, because, as Deadline hints with the revelation that the words are uttered by just one of James McAvoy’s 23 personalities in Split, it suggests there is yet one entity yet to be unmasked. Primarily, McAvoy plays Kevin in Split, but Kevin suffers from an identity crisis that manifests itself in 23 distinct individuals. If that isn’t enough to amp up the creepiness in McAvoy’s performance, the suspense is multiplied when Kevin’s therapist, played by Betty Buckley, reveals that James’ Split character can alter his own body chemistry to match whichever personality may be taking dominance of the patient.
An example of Kevin adapting his body chemistry to match his personality can be seen clearly in James McAvoy’s ability to transform himself into the woman, as seen in the Split trailer. If the Split character can transform into a woman with such ease, what might happen with the big reveal of The Beast, who is mentioned in the Split trailer, yet never seen?
The Beast isn’t the only personality to be feared in Split. The serial killer, the entity responsible for abducting those three teenage girls in the Split trailer, is yet one more identity. That personality wages a war against the others in Split to maintain dominance over Kevin’s consciousness. Meanwhile, the girls, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Jessica Sula (Recovery Road), and Haley Lu Richardson (The Bronze), wage their own war, fighting for their very survival, as their captor gradually sinks deeper into a madness that may claim all of their lives as collateral damage.
Psycho By Any Other Name
On the one hand, Split seems like another imaginative offering from M. Night Shyamalan, who both wrote and directed this film, and it’s possible that Shyamalan has again taken familiar subject matter and infused it with his own unique twists. It is possible that Split diverges from the standard multiple personality (or dissociative identity disorder, as it is now known) tale, even though it can already seem derivative of so many past horror films with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho topping that list, but as /Film points out, any twists in Split would have to be of a nature not related to the Split antagonist’s mental disorder. Otherwise, the twists can be easily anticipated and not in the least bit surprising.
The Split synopsis provided by /Film reads the following.
“Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him—as well as everyone around him—as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.”
While M. Night Shyamalan may or may not be delivering something original and truly suspenseful with Split, there can be no denying that James McAvoy as Kevin makes Split worth seeing. His performances as 23 distinct characters is at times creepy and at other times thrilling, but always worth a watch, based solely on what is seen of him in the brief Split trailer. To watch McAvoy transform over and over again in the full-length Split film may be enough to drive audiences to the theater for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering.
Split is set to debut in theaters on January 20, 2017.
[Image via Blumhouse Productions]