M. Night Shyamalan is back with a vengeance with his latest, Split, out now on DVD and Blu-Ray. The horror-thriller master has outdone himself in this tale of a man with 23 personalities, Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), who kidnaps a trio of teen girls. As each one of the people inside him battle over what to do with their new guests, a 24th soul starts to emerge that makes the other 23 identities seem passive in comparison.
The film works on so many levels, it is hard to know where to start. First off, this is a must-own for video collectors because it is that type of thriller, that even though the surprises and twists may be known upon subsequent viewings, the power of the piece stands firm and warrants repeated visits to Shyamalan’s newest and dare we say, scariest, world.
Split is the McAvoy show from beginning to end and what he achieves in this film is worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Will Academy members still remember this turn next January when voters cast their ballots? We doubt it, but they should because it is a lesson in how a thespian captures multiple personality characters and having each one be a living, breathing soul that leaps of the screen and even could anchor a story all their own. The X-Men star is astounding and for starters, what he does with his face alone is sublime (more on that later when we discuss the bonus features).
It is not easy to capture the nuances of a multiple personality individual without it coming off as cartoonish or a chewing the scenery performance. What McAvoy does is a master class in achieving theatrical greatness and proves that there is no role he cannot tackle in the process. There are reasons behind everything he does and there is a three-dimensional individual behind every single one of these personalities. It is astounding.
The last time 21st century horror king Jason Blum produced a Shyamalan movie, it brought the filmmaker back from the brink with The Visit. This time their pairing pushes the envelope to a whole new realm where the auteur has never been better… and yes that is saying something from the man who brought us The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. We cannot wait to see their third collaboration.
The filmmaker adores working with theater vets because, as he told us in a previous interview, “they are the most well rounded actors.” He cast a brilliant one with Betty Buckley as Kevin’s therapist, a woman who she paints as greatly understanding his ailment and one who firmly believes she can bring him to a place near being cured. Their scenes together are electric as she gets sucked into his madness that we know cannot be controlled, we get to witness two actors operating at such a high level, it is mesmerizing.
For a deeper look at the film, check out our theatrical Split review.
As this is truly the brainchild of The Sixth Sense creator, the first bonus feature that must be viewed is The Filmmaker’s Eye: M. Night Shyamalan. This featurette takes us deeper into what exactly makes him so special and is told from those who know him best — his producers, cast and crew. For appreciators of his life’s work, it is a must watch and one of the better looks at what makes a creative type so creative that we have seen in recent memory.
The Making of Split features all those involved in the making of a new chilling classic extolling the virtues of the film and what each found most compelling and important to bringing Shyamalan’s script to life. It is an interesting look at the filmmaker’s putting together of his latest and how an artist with a vision can take a concept that we think we’ve seen done before and give it new life and elevate it from a genre film to one that will stand the test of time as a great moment in cinema itself.
As we mentioned earlier, McAvoy does so much with the actor’s greatest tool… their face. The amazing bonus feature The Many Faces of James McAvoy not only showcases all those faces (24 of them!), but also goes deep into how the actor arrived at two dozen distinct characters to play, all within one astounding and utterly chilling film.
Film Grade: A-
Bonus Features: A-