M Night Shyamalan still takes himself deadly seriously, as if none of the flops after ‘The Sixth Sense’ ever happened. His latest thriller is ‘Split’, one of those sombre, cello-scored dramas about a clever psychopath. James McAvoy (having too much actorly fun) is Kevin, who has 23 multiple personalities and – more worryingly – three high-school girls locked up in his cellar. The cool problem-solving skills of one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy ), will have you rooting for her.
‘Split’ trots out many of Shyamalan’s pet moves, including his tendency to infuse genre nonsense with the trauma of child abuse. A lot of the film works better in flashback, as we learn what made young Casey so steely. Less successful are the endless therapy sessions between McAvoy’s therapist (Betty Buckley) and his character’s personalities, which include a camp fashion designer, a religious woman and a little boy (left). ‘Split’ doesn’t build to a typical Shyamalan twist ending – or a proper ending at all. It leaves you hanging in a way that feels pretentious.
There’s a tiny shiver of something in the final few seconds that doesn’t exactly change what we’ve watched so much as say: I’m still M Night Shyamalan and I’m still crazy! Half the audience will gasp; the rest of you will roll your eyes. Split, indeed