‘Split’ Proves M. Night Shyamalan Isn’t Going Anywhere

Above: M. Night Shyamalan has made a box office comeback with Split
Split Proves M. Night Shyamalan Isn't Going Anywhere

This past weekend, the latest thriller from writer-director-producer M. Night Shyamalan, Split starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, took the box office by storm, racking in more than $40 million domestically. The film is about a man (played by McAvoy) with 23 different personalities who are fighting for the spotlight along with an ominous 24th personality called simply, “the beast”.

The Sixth Sense, released in 1999 and arguably Shyamalan’s most well-known film, only earned $26 million in its opening weekend. Only time will tell if Split will take the top spot as the writer-director’s most financially successful film to date, but at the very least, it’s a welcome critical success compared to a lot of the films Shyamalan has released in the last twenty or so years. Although most of his films have been box office successes, the critics haven’t always been so kind.

His lowest rated film, The Last Airbender holds an abysmal score of 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, with After Earth not far behind with 11%. It seems Shyamalan started out on top with The Sixth Sense and the bar was set so high that there was nowhere left to go but down after that. But despite his inconsistencies as a writer and director, audiences seem to keep giving Shyamalan chance after chance, and it’s starting to pay off again.

Above: Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy star in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split
Above: Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy star in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split

He snuck back into the box office with 2015’s low budget found footage horror film, The Visit and managed to execute another one of his trademark plot twists without eliciting a chorus of groans from the audience (if you’ve seen The Happening, you know what I’m talking about). His most successful films prove his talent lies not in huge sci-fi blockbusters, but in psychological thrillers that aren’t so much scary as they are unsettling.

Shyamalan has also worked in television as an executive producer and occasional director for Fox series Wayward Pines, based on the novels by Blake Crouch. The series’ two seasons has starred big names like Matt Dillion, Juliette Lewis, Dijmon Hounsou and Terrence Howard. He’s also set to helm a TNT reboot of classic kid’s horror anthology show Tales From the Crypt.

Shyamalan’s career has been full of ups and downs. He isn’t the type of consistently good director that has the critics raving every time, and he may never reach the success of Oscar nominated-level screenwriting again, but he’s proven that he has the kinds of ideas that attract people to the theatre to find out what twist he’s come up with next. He’s an original, and even if his ideas don’t work out every time, he’s still worth taking a risk on.

Tags: M Night Shyamalan

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