Split

Director: M. Night Shyamalan (2017) BBFC cert: 15

The master of the twist ending returns with this psychological horror. Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan made his name with The Sixth Sense but after a string of disappointing films, he is slowly rebuilding his career at the Blumhouse studio.

Better known as the makers of The Paranormal Activity franchise, the low budget horror specialists don’t care how much new age waffle about mind over matter Shyamalan squeezes into his script, as long as he includes a lunatic  terrorising semi-dressed teenage girls.

So its a win win for both parties then.

James McAvoy delivers an outstanding, showboating performance which includes menace, pathos, comedy and damaged innocence. The Scots actor  stars as Kevin, a multiple personality maniac who imprisons three girls in his basement.

Child abuse and cannibalism feature in the story which draws on Beauty and the Beast and Dr Jekyl And Mr Hyde.

The surprise at the end ties the film in with Shyamalan’s early, better work and hints at a sequel. Despite my better judgement, I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

@ChrisHunneysett

The Visit

Director: M. Night Shyamalan (2015)

You’d best pretend to be out when this confused comedy horror calls round for tea.

It’s an inconsistent, dull and exploitative example of the over-used found footage format.

When a single mother Kathryn Hahn heads off on a weeks holiday cruise with her boyfriend, she packs her kids off to their grandparents whom they’ve never met.

Played with by Olivia De Jonge and Ed Oxenbould the young pair are as un-endearing a pair of teenagers as you could possibly hope to avoid.

Rebecca is a fifteen year old budding documentary maker. Her high minded if half hearted attempts to deconstruct cinematic technique has no bearing on proceedings.

The germaphobic Tyler raps on demand.

Pop-pop and Nanna live in a creaking farmhouse miles from everywhere. The kids are banned from the cellar.

Despite the vomiting, nudity and scratching at the walls, They’re never too scared to pick up their cameras.

Most frightening is the Frankensteins’ monster of a script, stitched together to form an incoherent whole, lurching in tone from scene to scene.

The Visit is broadly sympathetic to dementia sufferers but happy to mock the criminally insane; a contradictory position which it never attempts to reconcile or even seems to be aware of.

It seems as if Shyamalan wrote a script based on the idea the effects of mental illness may appear to others as disturbing and horrific.

Then the producers Blumhouse wandered in and said we’ll give you the cash to make the movie but only if you give us a cheap, tawdry and predictable third act.

After Earth

Director: M. Night Shyamalan (2013)

Young Jaden Smith takes top billing over his megastar dad Will in this handsome and old school sci-fi adventure.

The pair are travelling on a space ship across the cosmos 1,000 years after Earth has been abandoned because of pollution.

Will and Jaden play father and son Prime Commander Cypher Raige and Kitai Raige – who are the only survivors after they crash on a quarantined world.

Warrior Cypher is injured and Kitai must travel alone to recover the signalling device from the other half of the wrecked craft, which lies nearly 100 miles away.

Kitai sets off with limited oxygen supplies, his dad’s nifty electric sword and his own smart survival suit, which changes colour to indicate danger.

Because Cypher has a broken leg, Will spends most of the film confined to a chair barking radio orders to his son. Kitai is headstrong but brave as he encounters baboons, snakes, leeches, giant eagles, tigers and a large, angry, alien beastie.

For the most part the film is an exciting adventure story of a young man striving to grow up and be the measure of his father.

Some of the CGI creatures are not as convincing or as impressive as the beautifully presented cities and spacecraft.

It is an interesting experiment to cast the two Smiths and then ask both of them not to make jokes or attempt to be funny.

Jaden strains every sinew of his acting ability to carry the film while Will keeps his charm and sense of humour mostly buried beneath a stern exterior.

☆☆