Debuting a trailer that could almost be a metaphor for his own varied career, M. Night Shyamalan has given us a follow-up thriller to last year's The Visit. Split stars James McAvoy as a man, Kevin, who kidnaps three teenaged girls, trapping them in his underground lair and appearing to them as different personalities. The girls, played by Haley Lu Richardson, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Jessica Sula, try to deduce the reason they've been taken and what greater plans Kevin — or one of his other iterations — has for them.
Complete with a sage, older, psychiatrist giving us insight into Kevin's twenty-three different personalities, the trailer showcases what certainly looks like a challenging but fun role for James McAvoy. It has a distinctly psychological thriller feel with a smidge of frightening weirdness. Mention of "the Beast" in the trailer — another of Kevin's personalities or some other horror? — certainly gives it that horror film edge. This mixing of genres feels much like 10 Cloverfield Lane from earlier this year. A not-so straightforward kidnap tale with mysterious darker elements afoot.
After helming some super-duper blockbusters like The Last Airbender and the Will Smith-led After Earth, Shyamalan returned to his darker roots in last year's The Visit. While many fans were dubious, after all, found footage seems to be the easy route these days, critics and fans were delighted to find the film was good. Not only is it scary, it's funny. As long as Shyamalan can mature with the horror genre as it modernizes and shifts, he may just be back in the game.
Toeing the line genre-wise is one such way to prove his modernity. No longer are films straight horror or thriller, but one can become the other part of the way through a film. The sort of twist Shyamalan used to excel in. While there's plenty to be creeped out by in the Split trailer, this Shyamalan fan hopes the best of the film is yet to be revealed. And with up and coming scream queens cast (Taylor-Joy was the breakout of this year's horror standout The Witch and Richardson has been in plenty of indie thrillers in recent years), and a powerhouse actor in James McAvoy, Split has more than enough elements already incentivizing even the most doubtful of Shyamalan skeptics to check it out.
If The Visit, and now Split, are the introduction to a new side of Shyamalan, count me in. We're all entitled to personal growth...and a little bit of crazy.
After seeing the trailer, will you go to M. Night Shyamalan's Split when it hits theaters January 20, 2017?