‘Split’ full of personality

Shyamalan's new film has humor, scares


Universal Pictures

Near the middle of “Split,” the new film by “Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan, Kevin (played by James McAvoy) invites his captive, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), into his “room.” He pushes play on his boombox and begins to dance — a crazy concoction of jumping and spinning that looks more like a meltdown.

He turns to Casey and asks, “Did you like it?”

But Casey’s more concerned with the window Kevin has told her about — a possible means of escape. “Where’s your window,” she asks.

He walks to the wall and points at a child’s drawing of a window. It’s his drawing, although it’s not Kevin’s. Instead, it belongs to Hedwig, one of many alternate personalities we meet in the film.

Like it’s lead character, “Split” is an unnerving combination of funny and scary. The film is one of the best of Shyamalan’s movies, even better than “Unbreakable,” especially in its exploration of Kevin and his 23 different personalities, which all have a mind of their own. Each personality takes its turn in the “spotlight” and is allowed to do whatever it desires.

Part of the film’s strength lies in the performance of McAvoy, who — if you didn’t know better — you would think actually suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. The movie starts with one of McAvoy’s personalities kidnapping three girls and transporting them to a basement, where they become better acquainted with his various alter egos.

Throughout the movie, Shyamalan uses increasingly stomach-churning flashbacks, the reason for which is unclear until the end. This approach works in building suspense, especially as you try to figure out what’s happening before the big reveal. Even though some parts were heavy-handed, the ending was still shocking.

The final scene of the movie hints at the possibility for a “Split 2” — let’s hope it happens.

***½ out of 4