James McAvoy is excellent in M. Night Shyamalan’s first return to form in just over a decade. McAvoy plays Kevin, a person with split personality disorder and throughout the course of the film shows us eight of twenty-three people held within one body. He is at turns creepy, menacing and funny.
Kevin kidnaps three young girls (Anna Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) in preparation for the arrival of “The Beast” and the film spends the majority of the time in their basement prison as they attempt to get free. Taylor-Joy’s Casey decides that entering into discussions with Kevin’s various alter egos is the correct approach in seeking their freedom. This is due to previous trauma in her childhood that we see in really unsettling flashbacks. Her conversations with 9 year old Hedwig provide a counterpoint to these with humour and one fantastic dance number.
Shyamalan has not been this good for some time. After a string of intriguing and in some cases brilliant films with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village he created a series of poor (Lady in the Water) to downright awful films (The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth). The return to smaller scale and a story with slight paranormal edges has worked its charms. Fans of his earlier films will be especially happy with the final moments.