DATELINE: Shyamalan’s Latest
Producers continue to give M. Night Shyamalan money to make movies of his choice, despite commercial and critical disparaging words.
The latest is called Split, about a man (if you can call him that in a supernatural thriller) with 24 personalities. That’s a personality disorder with capital letters. It is about as overwrought as hyperbole can make it.
Shyamalan wrote this as well as directed. In terms of his writing, this film obviously came together after he saw William Wyler’s The Collector from 1965. That film is about a disturbed young man who kidnaps a beautiful girl and keeps her prisoner in hopes of making her fall in love with him.
This time, the man with the identity disorder kidnaps three women and keeps them prisoner in an elaborate underground prison. At least the John Fowler story of The Collector explained how he won the lottery which financed his mad caprices.
That’s not enough here. Shyamalan adds a touch of Hannibal Lecter and Psycho to the mix. That should pile-on adequately.
Don’t misjudge: this film has a rather wild performance by James McAvoy who limns about six personalities. He is highly watchable. Betty Buckley plays his therapist who is a classic enabler.
Shyamalan has all his usual Hitchcockian pretenses at hand: he makes a cameo again, sets all his films in Philadelphia, and loves to hear echoes of other movies. If you think this is his best since Sixth Sense, he will agree with you—as the sequel is already on the books, Mr. Glass.
Indeed, Bruce Willis makes a cameo at the end to promote the sequel. Nothing like trying to microwave your stew to guarantee an audience smells the aroma.
The film reaches the outer limits by the end credits, trying to sell us that psychosis is actually a means to reach the supernatural. Our grandmother used to say, “Balderdash,” and it still fits.