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SPLIT Brings M. Night Shyamalan Back Into The Light

SPLIT Brings M. Night Shyamalan Back Into The Light

*** MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD ***

If I may, I’d like to recap M. Night Shyamalan’s incredible career.  A career that blew up when the director wrote and directed The Sixth Sense.  The film’s remarkable twist ending led to six Academy Award nominations in 2000.  Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Picture.

The follow up, Unbreakable, may not have generated significant awards buzz but many feel it is his best film.  In 2004, the director released Signs.  Another solid thriller that remains one of my personal favorite movies of all time.

Then came The Village…  A slightly divisive film with a twist that was easier to spot than most of Shyamalan’s trademark endings.

Then…  Something funny happened…  For 11 years, the director stepped away from the film industry.  No one knows what happened…

He certainly didn’t cast himself as a writer who would change the world in Lady in the Water…  Plants didn’t kill everyone in The Happening…  The Last Airbender never got an abysmal live action adaptation…  Certainly Will Smith and his son Jaden never starred in a science fiction mess either…

No the director simply stopped directing films okay?  For a decade…  OKAY!?

It wasn’t until 2015 when the famed director finally returned to helm a new thriller called The Visit.  It was a much smaller film than we were used to seeing from Shyamalan.  But it marked the beginning of a prosperous relationship with horror wizard Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions. (Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Insidious)

Its 2016 now and M. Night Shyamalan is back with a brand new thriller co-produced at Blumhouse Productions.  SPLIT.

Here’s the thing…  If you’re a parent you’ll understand how difficult it is to find a night to see a movie.  You can’t just leave even if you’re desperate to see something on the big screen.  Sometimes, time permits itself and you’re just too lazy to switch your jogging pants for a pair of jeans.  So when you do decide to go out and see a movie, the choice of what to see is a difficult one.  You don’t want to waste your pick.

What makes matters worse is Split’s release date is right in the middle of the awards season.  All kinds of best picture contenders and Golden Globe winners are ready to be experienced.  I pushed for Split.  I didn’t want to watch something ‘heavy’.  I wanted a simple thriller.

Thankfully, M. Night Shyamalan delivered all that and more. Anchored by an incredible performance by James McAvoy, Split is a fantastic deconstruction of a broken and abused man who suffers from D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder)

If you can’t ignore the director’s work between 2004 and 2015, The Visit was a return to form.  With Split, M. Night Shyamalan proves he’s found his comfort zone again.  We’re back to his unique and entertaining blend of science fiction and suspense.  I couldn’t be happier.  There was a time when I considered Shyamalan my favorite director.  Signs came along right around the time I decided to learn how to write screenplays.  His first three films were a tremendous influence on me.

Let’s face it…  Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth happened.  I didn’t enjoy those films but I can respect the director’s ambition.  In a way, it’s selfish of all of his fans to demand a steady stream of thrillers but Split proves WHY we want them so badly.

Split is a stylish film that was perfect for a date night with my wife.  It means a lot to place your bet on 23 personalities and be rewarded in the end.

And what an ending it was…

*** LAST CHANCE TO TURN AWAY IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS ***

I couldn’t believe it when I heard the recognizable score sneak into Split’s final moments.  Then I smiled.  Shyamalan fans around the world smiled.  Split isn’t just a thriller about multiple personalities.  It’s a supervillain origin story and a damn good one.

For the majority of the film, Kevin, is lost.  He gives up control of his body over to his 23 alternate personas.  When the 24th arrives, Kevin finally accepts what he’s become.  It’s an incredibly dark yet satisfying ending to a relatable story about a boy who suffered a great deal in his life.  #24 AKA The Beast is a terrifying and powerful creature.  Powerful enough to catch the eye of a certain hero we met long ago…

There it was… That amazing score filling the theater after Kevin reveals his true form.  The haunting theme from Unbreakable!

In a brilliant twist, Shyamalan reveals Split to be the sequel we always wanted but never saw coming.  Zero spoilers hit the internet before the film’s release.  Then David Dunn (Bruce Willis) appeared on screen.  The short scene immediately sets up Dunn vs The Beast in a follow up.  Perhaps the sequel (if it ever happens) will include the return of Mr. Glass? (Samuel L. Jackson)

I think Split’s connection to Unbreakable is brilliant.  Shyamalan has since admitted that Kevin was originally intended to be the villain Dunn takes down at the end of Unbreakable:

“I had about 15-20 pages written focusing on Kevin and those scenes are all in Split” (io9)

I’m glad he waited.  We now have an entire film developing a villain for Dunn to take on.  Will it happen?  I hope so!  The hype surrounding a proper sequel to Unbreakable would be amazing and the timing has never been better.  Shyamalan’s career is the strongest it’s been in over a decade and he’s riding a fantastic wave of momentum.

I’m ready to catch up with David Dunn and Elijah Price. Especially with a powerful villain like Kevin on the loose.  I don’t want to speak too soon but Unbreakable 2 (or 3 depending on how you look at it) has the potential to be this generation’s Silence of the Lambs.  I still can’t believe he pulled it off without spoilers hitting the net.  A single scene gave the entire film new meaning.  It gave us a reason to watch it all over again with our eyes open to the possibilities.

I’m not going to say that M. Night Shyamalan is back.  It’s a little clichéd and you have to acknowledge his work whether you liked his ‘bad’ movies or not.  It’s almost like Night himself gave another part of his mind control for a while.  But Shyamalan has most definitely taken back the light and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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