Split not only has Shyamalan back on the saddle but also rewards fans for their patience in his return to form.

What a terrific comeback for Shyamalan! Many have been vocal that horror writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has been on a downward spiral after having peaked with Unbreakable, his very own superhero origins film. Split sees the continuation of Shyamalan’s tryst with the supernatural but also a long awaited rhetoric that this filmmaker was merely waiting for the right moment to resurface. While his last film – The Visit – was predictable but entertaining, Split underscores his storytelling prowess with the high level of creativity that made him a household name in contemporary horror.

Yet fans will concur that Split isn’t just a comeback either, rather a tactical setup of Shyamalan’s very own cinematic universe. Put literally, the film is about a person with multiple personalities where each personality speaks collectively in full awareness of the rest. Although main character Kevin is said to exhibit 23 personalities, we see just a handful during most of the film. There’s Barry, a New York fashionista, Hedwig, a goofy 9-year-old, and darker personalities Patricia and Dennis. Calling themselves The Horde, the latter two have influenced the abduction of three high school girls as a ritualistic sacrifice for the 24th personality often referred to as “The Beast”. The girls have limited time before The Beast is unleashed and although paralysed by fear, their escape depends on protagonist Casey’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) proactive deconstruct of the good and evil personalities that reside in Kevin. To her advantage and through revelatory flashbacks, we learn that this wouldn’t be the first time Casey would confront a monster.

If Edward Norton’s dual personalities was chilling in his debut film Primal Fear, wait till you get a load of James McAvoy in what is simply an outstanding performance of versatility (or should I say two dozen performances in one film?). More than just a demanding role to pull off, McAvoy’s broad range in this film has also elevated what could have been a familiar antagonist into a nerve wrecking supervillain. Which is why Shyamalan’s so called signature twist ending is almost astounding. To be honest there isn’t an actual twist in the story, but the ending is an unexpected but seamless integration into a sort of trilogy that will have most viewers gob smacked. It’s an inside joke and almost as if Shyamalan is asking if we have been watching closely, but also an extremely rewarding Easter egg for every true fan of the man.

Welcome back Mr. Shyamalan!

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.