Split (2016) – Honest Review

James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan team up to create a unique, gripping, and at times, terrifying horror film.

I had a bad feeling about Split when I learned of the involvement of BlumHouse, as the studio is very hit-or-miss in recent years, but Split has proved to be a certified hit, both at the box office and with audiences.

When James McAvoy’s performance is witnessed, it is not hard to see why this film is so highly regarded. Very few actors could do what he did in Split, he can switch seamlessly between characters in an almost chameleon-like state, and it is simply intoxicating to watch. At some points, you can actually see McAvoy losing himself to the character of the beast, perhaps shown most prominently in the build to the climax, which includes a highly intense and wholeheartedly creepy chase. It is a shame that the young Scotsman will likely not be remembered when Oscar season rolls around next year, because his performance here would not be out of place in any year’s Best Leading Actor category.

I particularly enjoyed the camerawork on display in this film, it really gives the viewer a sense of claustrophobia, a sense of real captivity, which allows audiences to sympathise further still with the three victims of the film.

Another area of greatness in Split is its script. M. Night Shyamalan has written something special with this one, cementing his rise from the depth of cinematic doom. It is arguable that his last film, The Visit, had more in the way of scares, but the concept behind Split is certainly one that gets you thinking, without overdoing it in the way of complexity. The film also deals with some real problems, psychological trauma, child abuse, and mental disorder, which is immensely effective in the emotive filmmaking process.

On a lighter note, the end scene and Bruce Willis cameo, implying a shared universe with Unbreakable, was Shyamalan’s own unique take on fan service, and the possibilities that may come with this are frankly mouth-watering.

There are problems with the film though, because even though I can praise the screenplay for its emotional effectiveness and thought provoking originality, Shyamalan still seems to have a little bit of trouble breaking bad habits. In this case, the heavy-handedness of his storytelling, this at times does rob the film of its class.

To conclude, Split is certainly one to see for horror fans, and for Unbreakable fans, who will not be left wanting after this spine-chiller gets its 23 pairs of hands on their psyche, and takes them on a disturbingly fractured journey, the likes of which Shyamalan has rarely achieved in his career.

I rate this film: 8/10   

Get Out (2017) – Honest Review

Believe the hype, Get Out is some serious next-level horror.

There’s a lot of critical praise heading the way of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, and for good reason. Ever since trailers hit the media in 2016 I was highly anticipating its release as horror has seen somewhat of a resurgence as of late. Needless to say, Get Out did not leave me wanting.

My main praise goes to Jordan Peele, both his screenwriting and his direction are very much on point here, but the screenwriting more-so. The writing is witty, imaginative, and utterly terrifying, with many of the characters forming their own unique personalities as the narrative unfolds, which is a trait that has been crucial in the aforementioned horror resurgence of recent years. Characters are not even the strongest element of the screenplay; however, as that title falls upon the various plot twists we are subject to in the films second, and third acts. We are kept guessing for the most part, and each twist comes as a storyline-bombshell of epic proportions, tying into earlier narrative devices excellently.

As far as scares go, the film is more than satisfactory, acting as more of a spine-chiller than an out-and-out jump fest, which is another element that has shaped the genre revival in recent years. The Armitage family and their party guests are wildly unnerving, and the film so well conveys a sense impending doom and heavy imprisonment for the films protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), so much so that the audience is as powerless as he is to avoid the stomach churning nervous-fear that the film will be so fondly remembered for.

The film is responsible for some good performances too, the previously mentioned Daniel Kaluuya can play both a helpless victim and an underdog hero incredibly well, and what’s even better is his ability to switch seamlessly between the two. LiRel Howery is also excellent as Chris’ best friend Rod, who provides a lot of the witty, and much needed humour. Howert’s delivery is so good that it instantly makes the sceptical best friend an audience favourite.

If I had to find one problem with this film though, it has to be the very end, which is a touch on the heavy handed side. While it may be considered a bit of a deus-ex machina, its issues are minimal, and after the suspense of the films climax it does come as somewhat of a welcome relief.

To conclude, Get Out is a near-perfect take on the horror genre, and will set Jordan Peele up for a strong, and prosperous directorial career, while also being remembered as a true modern classic in the genre.

I rate this film: 9/10

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (2016) – Honest Review 

New horror films hardly ever receive praise with even the best modern instalments getting mixed reviews at best, but this all changed in 2013 when horror fans around the world were treated to the modern classic that is The Conjuring, which showed new horror in a new light to the critics.

Then the franchise sort of lost the aforementioned new light with its dreadful prequel/spin-off Annabelle.

So when The Conjuring 2 was released it was seen as an opportunity for the series to regain its credibility and I am happy to announce that it does just that.

First of all let me start by saying that this film is utterly terrifying, relying surprisingly little on jump scares and rather the suspense of the jump scare fake-out. Often the reliance on intensity is a welcome breath of fresh air to the boring rut of jump-scare based horror films. The make-up and costume department are also to be heavily commended on the simply terrifying appearance of the films main antagonist, Valak, a demon that for the most part of the film to appears as a nun for the purposes of blasphemy.

The writing staff must also be praised for not only the terrifying demon, but for creating a whole host of terrifying characters for the film, as well as the previously mentioned Valak, we were also treated to the terrifying, beyond-the-grave pensioner Bill Wilkins, and the nursery rhyme inspired, child’s toy dwelling Crooked Man. The creation of characters in this film is not the only example of the excellent writing on display here; there are also two great stories that come together with a pretty good plot twist/connective to draw everything to a close. The only problem I can see with the writing is a slightly convoluted ending with the demon being defeated by Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) who merely says its name to send it running scared. Now I know this is what people genuinely believed got rid of demons, but this is not the biggest issue I have, but rather how Lorraine managed to know the demons name, the answer to that question is, it told her. That seems like the laziest kind of writing in my option, it also made no sense, but other than that, this was a solidly written picture.

As far as acting performances go, there was nobody in this film that did not give a good performance, if I had to pick a standout I would have to go with Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren, showing a lot more care and diversity to the character. This is not to take credit away from anyone in this film though, as I’ve previously mentioned, there were no faults in the acting, I cannot stress this enough.

To summarise, I think this film was a welcome, redeeming addition to its series, and even though the writing got a little bit lazy at the very end it was not enough to overshadow this film which was a triumph in the horror genre.

I rate this film: 7.5/10