Split movie poster

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Dissociative Identity Disorder. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan reminds everyone why folks used to associate him with Alfred Hitchcock, swiping a mental condition from Psycho, a sympathetic shrink from Spellbound, and a bold theorist from Rope. (Oh, and there’s some good use of the camera as eye, both looking and looked into.) But he’s also happy to borrow from Thomas Harris’s mother-abused, often-used Tooth Fairy (Manhunter, Red Dragon,, TV’s Hannibal) and his talk of Glorious Becoming. (Shyamalan juggles all these borrowed balls with grace and skill; it’s only when he adds in some of his own that he falters. Viz. the big-idea talk of transcendence through suffering.) As in the Fairy’s case, the Becoming of James McAvoy’s superman requires sacrifice: in this case, three pretty teens in gradually increasing states of undress. But one of these girls — Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey — is not like the others: for one thing, she listened when her father taught her about deer hunting, and that listening begets a watchfulness that proves most useful. For another, she…well, there’s no sense spoiling the surprise Shyamalan so carefully reveals. It’s all quite engrossing (thanks in no small part to the committed performances) until the end, when what played like a queasily fun (read: overheated and at least a little exploitative) psychological thriller record-scratches its way into becoming something else, something rather more franchisey — and, once the initial whoa fades, rather less interesting. 2017.

Matthew Lickona

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