‘Split’: M. Night Shyamalan is Back

No spoilers ahead.

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for this moment: When M. Night Shyamalan returned to the good graces of film.

Shyamalan became a mega-star with 1999’s The Sixth Sense and continued on that streak with cult-favorite Unbreakable and another mega-hit Signs. He carried that good will through The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening, but with increasingly diminishing results, especially by the time of the latter in 2008.

For comparison, Signs in 2002 did $227 million at the domestic box office, The Village $114 million, Lady in the Water $42 million (didn’t make its budget back) and $64 million. By the time The Last Airbender came around in 2010, Shyamalan’s reputation was as low as it could go. To be fair, that film did do $131 million (although domestically it fell short of its $150 million budget), but Shyamalan was blasted by fans of the source material.

Even with Will Smith, 2013’s After Earth was yet another bomb — in fact, one of the biggest that year.

And the critical response tends to follow this trend line: Rottentomatoes has The Sixth Sense at 85 percent, Unbreakable at 68 percent, Signs at 74 percent and then the drop-off: The Village at 43 percent, Lady in the Water at 24 percent (he even has a whole part in the film about lampooning film critics), 18 percent for The Happening and 6 percent for The Last Airbender. Finally, 11 percent for After Earth.

I should state, for the record, that I did find Lady in the Water to be terribly underrated, but I was still a devoted Shyamalan fanboy. He was my Nolan before Nolan was Nolan.

However, it’s actually with 2015’s The Visit where Shyamalan made his low-key return to favor. First off, it got 64 percent and in fact, the critical consensus stated, “The Visit provides horror fans with a satisfying blend of thrills and laughs — and also signals a welcome return to form for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan.” It also brought in a cool $65 million on a $5 million budget domestically.

But the zeitgeist takes time to turn and I believe Shyamalan’s full return to the director and screenwriter we knew in the 1999-2002 period came to fruition with this year’s Split, a story about someone with dissociative identity disorder and the horror that ensues. The film currently sits at 74 percent on Rottentomatoes and has made just over $100 million at the box office after dethroning Rogue One and sitting atop that very box office for the last three weekends.

Now, all of that said, I’m going to Shyamalan you and pull a swerve: The real star and coming out of Split is the show-stealing, holy shit performance(s) by James McAvoy. His performance(s) are so believable, it’s bone-chilling how well he was able to jump between each distinctive personality.

Go see this movie to see the resurrection of Shyamalan come to its fullest form and the must-see performance(s) of McAvoy. And ya know, it’s just a good psychological thriller.

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