Category Archives: Horror

‘Old’ Review

You know society is officially starting to get back to normal when we get another M. Night Shyamalan joint.

“Old” is the latest twisty-turny thriller from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, and his first since 2019’s “Glass.” It stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, and Alex Wolff as a family who get stranded on a beach with several other tourists, only to find themselves mysteriously aging rapidly.

M. Night Shyamalan has had a pretty spotty career, with three or four films on his record that have been universally accepted as good while also creating some of the most mocked films of the 21st century (“The Last Airbender” and “After Earth” to name two; “The Happening” is its own thing, that horror film is a comedic masterpiece). Here, Shyamalan finds himself somewhere in the middle of good and bad, presenting big ideas with hit-and-miss execution.

With Shyamalan’s films, much like Quetin Tarantino or Michael Bay, you pretty much know what you are going to get; the question is will it be the good version or the bad. Shyamalan has directed some terrific performances over the years (like a young Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” or James McAvoy in “Split”) but he has also overseen some terrible work, like Mark Wahlberg in “The Happening” or the entire cast in “Last Airbender.” Some of the cast is fine here, with Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps turning in serviceable work as a drifting-apart couple.

However Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie, both of whom are among the best young actors working today and have given some great performances in the past, are pretty terrible. You can put part of it on the fact they are 20-year-olds having to pretend to have the mentality of a 10-year-old, but they overact and/or undersell a lot of their dialogue, to the point of sometimes comedic results.

Now that’s not all their fault, as in true Shyamalan fashion the writing in the film is pretty bad. Characters literally introduce themselves to complete strangers with their names and occupation (“my name is Jarin, I am a nurse”) or have a perfect understanding of something completely random that just so happens to come in perfectly handy for an exact situation (“I was on my collegiate swim team!”). It gets to the point of being so eye-rolling that you chuckle, which maybe is part of the point.

The famous M. Night twist is actually solid, if not slightly underdeveloped, and did do enough for me to redeem the film in-part. I can predict that some people will have checked long before they arrive at the big reveal and for those people it may be too little too late, and that is understandable.

The problem with “Old” is that it is best enjoyed in a situation where you and some friends can openly laugh at the sheer lunacy of the events transpiring on-screen, and that is not something that is (at least respectfully) able to happen in a theater. It is dumb and only answers half the questions it raises, but I can’t say I was ever bored watching it. It is impossible to tell if M. Night is trolling audiences and making his movies dumb and ripe for parody on purpose or by happenstance, but maybe at this point in his career it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. So is “Old” worth seeing? I mean no, but also yes.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ Review

Theaters are BACK, baby!

“A Quiet Place Part II” is the sequel to the 2018 sleeper hit, again written and directed by John Krasinski. The film follows a woman and her children (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) one more having to navigate a world where aliens are hunting them based on sound; Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou join the cast.

This was due out in theaters in March 2020 (I had my ticket bought and was a week out from going) but became one of the initial films to be delayed due to the coronavirus shutting down theaters. It has been a long wait, but there is something poetic about “A Quiet Place Part II,” a rare sequel that does its predecessor justice, being the first “big” release of the (almost) post-pandemic era.

“A Quiet Place” took a lot of people by surprise when it came out, and came *this* close getting a Best Picture nomination (it earned top nods at nearly every guild). I like the film and think Krasinski, known for his comedy, did a good job directing the thriller. The sequel ups the stakes (and by default, the budget) but Krasinski manages to keep the film’s heart in-tact. The action sequences are bigger and I really enjoyed the tracking shots and use of background actors to create a sense of chaos, compared to the “hold your breath and look over your shoulder” sequences of the first film. I think he does make the mistake a lot of monster movies (especially sequels) make and shows the creatures a bit too often (the scariest thing is what you can’t see), but it is never overly excessive. I do think that we lose some of the “don’t you dare make a sound” tension since the characters have a way to fight the creatures, but Krasinski is able to play with these new rules.

Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe are both great talents and they’re good here, but the show belongs to Millicent Simmonds and Cillian Murphy. Simmonds takes the reigns as the lead of the film, and she and Murphy, playing a man dealing with being alone in this bold new world, make an interesting team. Their quest is where “Quiet Place 2” thrives, creating some of the tensest sequences of the film.

Much like the first film, I think it takes a bit of time to get the ball rolling, but once Krasinski really gets things moving he doesn’t stop until the credits roll. The film does have some moments of poor sound editing where it is difficult to make out what actors are saying, but for the most part the seamless transition from booming screams, to static, to mute make for an immersive experience.

The film does a great job of building off the lore and rules of the first installment while introducing new challenges and risks, and that isn’t an easy thing for a sequel to do (clearly; name five follow-ups as good as their predecessors). You hear the line “this deserves to be seen in a theater” a lot and usually it’s just code for “this is a big-budget blockbuster that you will forget about almost instantly” but in this case it is actually true: this film deserves to be seen in a theater. From the sound, to the action, to simply giving Krasinski and his team the support they deserve, “A Quiet Place Part II” is a great unofficial start to both the summer movie season and return to normalcy at the cinema.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘Freaky’ Review

Sometimes it is wonderful when a movie is exactly what its trailer made it out to look like.

“Freaky” puts a twist on the body-swap tale, when a notorious serial killer (Vince Vaughn) switches places with one of his teenage victims (Kathryn Newton). Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, and Alan Ruck also star as Christopher Landon co-writes and directs.

2020 has been weird and full of ever-changing situations, but I really don’t know why Universal wouldn’t release this film back in October. I get they want to have the Friday the 13th tagline for the posters, but for whatever amount of theaters are up and operating this would have been a fun film for spooky season to see with an (albeit socially distanced) audience (if they really wanted to milk the Friday the 13th thing then put it on PVOD on November 13 instead of December 4). But I am rambling; point is, this film is fun.

The body-swap gimmick is nothing new, it’s been done from “Freaky Friday” (and arguably perfected by Jamie Lee Curtis playing Lindsay Lohan in the 2003 remake) to the “Jumanji” reboots. Here, Vince Vaughn gets to tap into his inner teenage girl, akin to Jack Black in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” From flamboyant hand motions to acting awkward around his (her) crush, Vaughn is clearly having a blast in the role, and even manages to be intimidating in the few scenes where he is his normal killer self.

Kathryn Newton is given a little less to do as a killer trapped in a young woman, she mostly just moves around silently before striking her victim. She is definitely solid in the role, but is outshined by Vaughn and her supporting cast (Misha Osherovich as the stereotypical gay best friend is a blast).

Christopher Landon is quietly one of my favorite people working in the slasher field, having written the fantastic and nostalgia time-capsule “Disturbia” and the very fun “Happy Death Day,” among others. Much like “Happy Death Day,” Landon gets to play around with the horror-comedy genre and come up with some pretty creative kills. Some are over-the-top, but that is what makes them all the more fun; it may take a bit away from the scary aspect of the story, but it is never not entertaining.

“Freaky” does sag a bit leading up to its climax and then not exactly know when to end, but thanks to fun direction and a fantastic Vince Vaughn performance it is just a fun time at the movies. I will revisit this out again next October for sure, and even though we’ve traded jack-o’-lanterns for wreaths on our porches you should still seek this one out (whether that be in theaters or VOD).

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Rebecca’ Review

Someone needs to get to the suits in Hollywood and tell them that not every classic film needs to be reimagined.

“Rebecca” is based on the 1938 book of the same name, which was famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940 (his only Best Picture winner). The plot follows a newlywed couple (Armie Hammer and Lily James) that is haunted by the memory of the husband’s deceased wife. Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Goodman-Hill, Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd also star, while Ben Wheatley directs.

Remaking classic films is nothing new, Hollywood has been doing it for years (such as “True Grit,” “Ben-Hur,” and “A Star Is Born,” which gets dusted off every 20 years), and it’s very rare they are actually worth revisiting (“A Star Is Born” is ironically probably one of the few films that perfectly balances paying homage to the source material while also adding its own style). While “Rebecca” is not a straight-up remake of Hitchcock’s film, it is based on the same book and thus follows the same beats, and while I have not seen the 1940 original, this 2020 version simply never justifies its own existence.

Armie Hammer has had an odd but quietly successful career thus far, coming onto the scene in 2010 with his dual performance in “The Social Network.” After being the titular role in the notorious box office bomb “Lone Ranger,” he has done small supporting roles in things like “Sorry to Bother You” and earned award talks for “Call Me by Your Name.” An American, Hammer makes attempts to carry a British accent here (the film is set in Europe and the rest of the cast is naturally British) and about halfway through the runtime decides to just drop it (seriously, there are lines of dialogue that are flat-out Californian dialect). He tries to have a sense of mystery about his character, but it never really comes off much better than what “Fifty Shades of Grey” tried to do with Christian Grey.

Lily James is always dorky and charming, and here she is fine. She is supposed to go through this gradual change as the film progresses, with one character saying she has lost her innocence, but that is never organically portrayed on-screen. She also suddenly becomes an expert in law and medical science and anything else the plot needs from her, and it’s just lazy writing.

From a production standpoint, the film looks great. Seriously, the cinematography by Laurie Rose, especially in the early scenes set in the French Riviera, are gorgeous and lit perfectly. The attention to detail by the production design crew is to be commended, and it at least keeps you mildly intrigued when the plot consistently does not.

“Rebecca” is luscious on the outside but hallow on the inside, and despite being an easily-accessible Netflix movie is not worth a watch. There is no true conflict until the final 20 minutes, and there is simply nothing here that we have not seen done before, and done better. In the film, Hammer never wants to talk about his wife Rebecca, and I don’t want to ever think about her again, either.

Critics Rating: 4/10

‘Antebellum’ Review

Sometimes there is just a world of difference between concept and execution.

“Antebellum” stars Janelle Monáe as a woman who must escape a slave plantation she is being held captive at. Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe also star while Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz write and direct.

Like many other films, this was set to be theatrically released earlier this year but was later delayed and will now be a video-on-demand release. I was really looking forward to it after a short and moody trailer, which when partnered with producer Sean McKittrick, gave a “Get Out” vibe. And while “Antebellum” delivers on the creative premise the trailer set up, it leaves more to be developed when you peak behind the curtain.

Janelle Monáe is quietly one of the better actresses working today, delivering sensitive work in “Moonlight” and arguably the strongest performance of “Hidden Figures.” Here, Monáe gets to play both strong and confident, as well as subdued and terrified. There are a few moments of over-acting, but I would attribute that more to direction of the scene than Monáe’s acting abilities.

There are handful of other actors who show up for a few scenes, but none of them are really noteworthy outside Gabourey Sidibe. Sidibe plays Monáe’s loud-mouthed friend, and she is just such an annoying character (I have to imagine on purpose) that I really was put-off when she showed up.

Shot in Louisiana for about $15 million, the film looks pretty good, including a nice tracking shot around a Civil War-era plantation to open things up. The score by Nate Wonder and Roman Gianarthur is also solid, with a nice blend of anxious and haunting.

Where the film flounders most is the screenplay, written by Bush and Renz. This marks the duo’s feature directorial debut as well as their first script (they have made a career in music videos), and while it is far from the worst freshman effort, the film’s biggest weaknesses lie at the feet of these two. I can’t really say what my issues are here without getting into spoilers, but I will say the film has a twist that really isn’t all too twisty, and then they make almost no attempt to flesh out exactly *how* something like that could happen. They also break things up into three distinctive acts, and they just don’t really mesh well. Bush and Renz clearly had a vision they wanted to put on screen, but seem to have struggled on how exactly to make them all work.

The film also offers social commentary about modern race relations, but I think it doesn’t get much beneath surface-level, nor does it use genre blending like “Get Out” to start a discussion. Plus, this was shot in May 2019 and intended to come out this past April, both before the resurgence of the race dialect and issues that have boiled to the surface in our country in recent months. I don’t exactly think “Antebellum” will start a discussion or hold a mirror up to society as much as just have people go “yup, racism is bad and slavery was an atrocity, agreed.”

“Antebellum” features quality production value and a strong central performance from Janelle Monáe, but the inability to really flesh out its premise or fully deliver on either thrills, horror, or uncomfortable truths make this one a bit of a disappointment, but maybe still worth checking out if you check your expectations at the door.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘The Invisible Man’ Review

Well, Blumhouse Productions saved the “Halloween” franchise when it appeared DOA, so guess they’re here to resuscitate the Universal monsters, too.

“The Invisible Man” is a modern telling of the classic H.G. Wells novel, as well as the 1933 film. The reboot stars Elisabeth Moss as a woman who escapes from an abusive relationship, only to begin to believe her former partner (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has found a way to make himself invisible and is stalking her. Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid and Harriet Dyer also star, as Leigh Whannell writes and directs.

Blumhouse is a fascinating beast because for every stinker they put out like “Black Christmas” they’ll create a gem like “Get Out.” However, I’ve written before how I admire and appreciate Blumhouse, as in a world of films becoming products and studios obsessing over creating shared universes they offer filmmakers complete creative control over $5 million budgets. “The Invisible Man” originally was going to be rebooted with Johnny Depp in the title role as part of Universal’s planned “Dark Universe,” however after “The Mummy” was terrible and bombed, that rendition was scrapped. In stepped Blumhouse, who gave the job to Leigh Whannell, who was fresh off the fantastically fun “Upgrade.” And honestly, for Universal, “The Mummy” bombing was the best thing that could have ever happened to their monsters.

Elisabeth Moss has always been one of those actors you know will turn in a solid performance no matter what she’s in (she was one the bright spots of last summer’s perfectly fine “The Kitchen”). Here she plays a woman trying to recover from a broken and abused past, and she portrays the character in such a way that even though we have just been dropped into her word we feel as if we’ve been mistreated, too. Whether it is struggling to step outside simply to get the mail in fear her ex will somehow find her to feeling she is being watched in an empty house, Moss’ facial expressions speak volumes here, and it really is a solid performance that if released later in the year could’ve gotten darkhorse award chatter.

The script by Whannell is basic at some aspects (not too much of the dialogue pops) but in structure I thought it was great. The film opens with Moss’ escape from the abusive home, and from there we get a slowburn of her slow decent into (apparent) madness. Whannell allows the string to tighten before he snaps it, sometimes having his camera linger on a corner or have large spaces on the side of the frame to make our minds wonder if the Invisible Man is watching the characters or not. There are also a handful of great twists, even if some require some more explanation than the film wants to give us, including one that had the woman next to me cover her mouth and gasp. Whannell is quickly making a name for himself as a director to reckoned with, and just like Jordan Peele I can’t wait to see what he does next.

“The Invisible Man” may not be as thought-provoking as other Blumhouse pics like “Get Out” or even “BlacKkKlansman” but it does offer an insight to the struggles of abusive relationships, and how much control one person can have over another. But perhaps more importantly, it is a horror-thriller film that remembers to be unnerving and thrilling, as well as creative, and that is something that Hollywood seems to forget we like to see in our scary movies. The year wasn’t looking great for the genre early on (both “The Turning” and “The Grudge” earned F CinemaScores from audiences), but here is a film that we didn’t see coming to save the day (you didn’t think I’d go this entire review without an invisible pun, did you?). And with “Candyman,” “A Quiet Place: Part II” and the latest “Halloween” sequel on the horizon, the sun seems to be shining down on us horror fans once again.

Critic’s Rating: 8/10

‘The Nun’ is Just Another Bland ‘Conjuring’ Spin-Off

And I thought the DC Extended Universe had problems…

“The Nun” is the fifth installment of the “Conjuring Universe” and a prequel to 2016’s “The Conjuring 2.” It follows a Catholic priest (Demián Bichir) and a young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) who uncover an unholy secret in a Romanian monastery in 1952. Corin Hardy directs while “Conjuring” creator James Wan produces.

I have never really been a fan of the “Conjuring” series. I think the first film is very competently made and has some tense sequences but just isn’t that scary, which is a bit of a crutch for a scary movie. All the subsequent films, especially the two “Annabelle” installments, are laughable (for the wrong reasons) and just plain boring. This film has better performances and more engaging set pieces than those films (a gothic castle screams “ghost story” more than a farm) but a dumb characters and a boring narrative make this just another bland film with a few bumps in the night.

Like I said, the film is set in the Cârța Monastery in Romania, offers a few creepy settings and an unsettling atmosphere. However as director, Hardy does little to explore any real possibilities or play with the world he sets up short of the expected. He doesn’t trust his audience, so any shadow is highlighted and every figure held in the frame. One of the things good horror films, including many by James Wan, do is have creepy images in the background but don’t emphasize them; this makes your brain paranoid if it caught something or not and then you start looking around nervously in every wide shot.

Performance-wise, both Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of “Conjuring” star Vera Farmiga, although I don’t believe their characters share relation) turn in solid work. You can sense their dedication to the faith and they (usually) are able to sell a lot of the laughable dialogue. However, their characters are so unbelievably stupid, walking towards creepy shadows in the middle of the night and not being creeped out or confused by figures suddenly disappearing, it makes you distracted more by that then admiring their work.

The first half of this film is a pretty boring investigation, even though we have seen that priests looking into possible possessions can be very interesting when done right. The second half is a nonsensical CGI monster movie, with the titular Nun running around screaming and jumping, plus a few other incoherent and stupid special effects.

Look, these films are clearly not my cup of tea. I like my films to have relatable characters, engaging plots and smooth pacing, but some people get enough out of jump scares and demons in creepy Halloween masks, and if those two things are enough for you then “The Nun” should be fun enough (the person I saw this with said parts were almost too creepy, so maybe I’m just too brave). But being this far out from the end of October, I don’t think this is entertaining enough for even a “fun night out” at the movies.

Critic’s Grade: C–

Warner Bros.

‘A Quiet Place’ Has a Lot to Say about Horror

I’m excited to see which comedian takes up directing a horror/thriller film next, because it’s worked out so far for Jordan Peele and John Krasinski…

“A Quiet Place” stars John Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt as parents who must quietly survive in a world where aliens that hunt off sound have invaded. Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe star as the couple’s children as Krasinski directs.

Back in 2016 there was a film called “Lights Out” which had a great premise but poor execution. In it, there is a monster that can only survive in the dark; if you shine a light on it then it disappears. It was smart because we all as humans have a natural fear of the dark and “A Quiet Place” feeds off the fact that humans make sound and have an urge to communicate, so what would happen if that was suddenly taken away?

One of the children in the film is hearing-impaired (played by Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf in real life) and the film does a good job of putting us in her shoes. Even though the other characters are trying their best not to make noise, our world still has so much ambient sound in it like the hum of a radiator or the soft whoosh of a quick breeze. Whenever the camera is focused on her, all sound cuts out which creates true terror at points when you just want to shout at her to notice something on screen but can’t. Not only because she cannot hear you but also because the rules the film has established for its universe.

Emily Blunt, Krasinski and Jupe are all solid, each given a scene or two to truly shine. I want to remain as vague as possible regarding how and when they have their moments (and about the plot in general) but they all step it up and give arguably career-best performances (seeing as Jupe’s previous best was in the hysterically awful “Suburbicon” take that for what it’s worth).\

The film’s best moments are when the family is in danger and there are some true heart-pounding sequences. There aren’t too many moments that allow you to fully exhale or catch your breath but that is smart because it puts you in the shoes of the characters, like with Simmonds. There are points that Krasinksi the director could have used a bit of touching up, whether it be falling into genre tropes like the bloody hand slamming up against the window for a jump scare or mishandling how a scene should have been conducted using sound design, but these missteps are rare.

“A Quiet Place” will surely make some noise on social media and at the box office because it isn’t too often that Hollywood puts out an original film (in horror no less) that resonates with you after you’ve left the theater. Typing this review I really took note of how much sound the keys make and when I sneezed how hard it would be to try and stifle the noise, and that shows that Krasinski tapped into something that connects each and every one of us and attacked it, and that’s true horror.

Critic’s Grade: B+

‘It’ isn’t Perfect, but it is Pretty Fun


No matter how this thing turned out, the bar to be the best Stephen King adaptation of 2017 was set very low by “The Dark Tower” last month.


“It” is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Stephen King, and is the second reincarnation of the book after the 1990 miniseries. The plot follows a group of middle schoolers in 1989 Maine who are terrorized by a shapeshifting entity. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs and Jack Dylan Grazer all star as the kids while Bill Skarsgård plays the titular creature and Andy Muschietti directs.


The backstory behind the making of “It” is interesting, and like many Hollywood films (and especially King adaptations) it went through different stages and directors. Initially, “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga was set to helm the project, with Will Poulter (phenomenal in this year’s “Detroit” but at the time only really known for his comedic role in “We’re the Millers”) to play Pennywise the Dancing Clown aka It. However “creative differences” led to Fukunaga dropping out, taking Poulter with him, although he retained screenwriting credit. I would have loved to see Fukunaga’s vision and Poulter in the white makeup and clown wig, but Muschietti (known for “Mama”) and Skarsgård make for a solid pairing in what is a sometimes creepy, sometimes funny, but never fully-realized fall flick.


I never read King’s original novel and I saw the miniseries forever ago, so I cannot attest as to how accurate and loyal this film is to those respective works. From what I remember, the miniseries is very campy (with the brilliant Tim Curry in the lead role) and has some effects that hold up by 1990 standards and others that very much do not, and one of the things I respected about this latest rendition is their apparent dedication to practical effects when possible.


The best thing this film has going for it are its musical score and cinematography by Benjamin Wallfisch and Chung-hoon Chung, respectively. The film has a warm summer glow about it, with just a slight tint to give you that 1990s feel, and the background score, while overused at points, is eerie.


The design of Pennywise the Dancing Clown is creepy in it of itself, with Skarsgård unrecognizable under all that makeup. It is a dedicated performance from a man I’m sure we’ll see more of, and there are points where he is intimidating and others amusing. But never at the same time, which is a repeating problem the film has (I’ll get back to that).


The cast as a whole is wonderful, in fact, with the standouts being Finn Wolfhard (the only actor from Fukunaga’s initial casting to be kept) and Jack Dylan Grazer (in his feature debut). These two young men are hilarious and deliver some one-liners with pitch-perfect tone and timing, and I see bright futures ahead of them. Jaeden Lieberher, great in “St. Vincent” and underappreciated in this year’s guilty pleasure masterpiece “The Book of Henry,” is as timid yet loyal as he’s ever been. You really get a “Stand by Me” feel from the lovable group of losers, and for anyone who was a kid in the late-80s this will a nostalgic trip. But, just like with Pennywise, the film never is able to blend the group’s fun moments with their terror.


There are points in the film that are supposed to be scary or sad but come off as unintentionally funny, like the face Pennywise makes when he bites off a character’s arm or right as he revs up to charge at one of his victims. And it clearly was not the filmmaker’s intentions to have those moments be comical, because there are other parts that are clearly funny, like Pennywise chewing on an arm before looking up using the severed arm to wave at someone. It creates an uneven flow, which isn’t helped by the film having a “and then this happened” feel about each scene, instead of a logical narrative.


The film also can’t escape scary movie clichés, like relying on heightening soundtracks and jump scares, as well as dumb characters doing inexplicable things. What’s even more damning this time around is the kids know they are being hunted by the creature, yet they will still wander off alone or approach a funny-looking object; it is almost insulting in certain scenes how the filmmakers have to go out of their way to set things up in order to work.


“It” really isn’t all that scary—it’s more tense if anything—but it will please fans of King or horror films. And unlike “Annabelle: Creation,” I was never bored watching the build-up scenes, because these are characters we know and care about. I am looking forward to Part II of this duology, to see the adults these kids become (and what actors play them) and watch them face off against Pennywise and their fears all grown up. As it stands, “It” is not the groundbreaking phenomenon the internet or box office will hype it up to be, it’s just a competently made, slightly inconsistent film that you can have fun laughing with or at, depending on how much clowns freak you out.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘Split’ has Great Performances but Weak Execution

Split_(2017_film)An ending can often make or break a film; a strong case can be made this film’s ending breaks it.


“Split” is the latest film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and follows a man with a multiple personality disorder (James McAvoy) who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula).


A lot of people have given up on M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker, writing him off as a two-hit wonder from 2000. However after his 2015 film “The Visit,” some people maintained hope that Shyamalan maybe had some magic left in him. And while “Split” isn’t a masterpiece, it offers a fantastic central performance from James McAvoy and some decent thrills and chills, although it can’t stick the landing in the climax.


Through most of the time I was watching this I kept getting a “10 Cloverfield Lane” vibe, and not just because both films focus on hostages trapped in a basement by a captive who treats them decently enough but has unclear motives. There is a sense of claustrophobia and tension around the whole film, not knowing character’s backstories and what is driving them creates a mystery within itself.


James McAvoy is the best part of the film and frankly why it works at all. He technically turns in six or seven different performances, with his Kevin having the personality of an eight-year-old child one second and a middle-age fashion designer the next. McAvoy does wardrobe changes to coincide with his personalities but what is brilliant about his performance are the subtle differences of his personalities. One may twitch, another has a gentler stare, and it really is great work that much like John Goodman in “Cloverfield Lane” would probably get award talk if it came out in the fall instead of the first quarter of the year.


Anya Taylor-Joy, praised for her work in “The Witch” and the only good thing about “Morgan,” does a fine job as the “leader” of the captive girls and harbors some secrets of her own. Like McAvoy she has to convey a range of emotions and wear emotional masks, and she continues to show why her stock is on the rise.


Characters and performances aside, however, the film has problems. It is a slow-burn narrative however that doesn’t excuse its 117 minute runtime for feeling like it is well over two hours long. By the time the film was approaching its climax I thought to myself, “ok, this ending has to be pretty amazing to be worth all this build up.” And it wasn’t.


Despite being Shyamalan there isn’t a real twist ending and anything that could have been considered surprising is either foreshadowed or flat-out explained halfway through the film. There are also flashback sequences that end up having near nothing to do with the actual plot itself, and a surprise at the very end of the film will be a joy for those who pick up on the reference but disaffecting for those who don’t.


“Split” has a decent setup and features a fantastic performance from James McAvoy and for some that may be enough. However those who want a truly thrilling hostage film with a classic Shyamalan twist and reveal may be left disappointed.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures