Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures
Three teenagers, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) are kidnapped by one of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s (James McAvoy) 23 personalities and they are locked in a cell beneath the ground with the sole purpose of being offered as human sacrifices to a surfacing 24th persona known as ‘The Beast’. Sensing that Kevin’s more perverse nature is currently in control, his psychologist, Dr Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) conducts her own investigation to locate the missing girls.
M. Night Shyamalan’s competency lies in dispensing suspense and terror to hair-raising effect. By condensing the story on the girls trying to flee from their captor, he avoids the mistakes made in calamities like ‘Lady In The Water’ and ‘The Happening’. (Certain) character motivation and rationality are the movie’s finest qualities and casting McAvoy is like watching a filmic one-man show with 23 roles.
There is a kicker though. We are reminded that there are 23 characteristics, but ‘The Sixth Sense’ director only chooses to show us about eight of them for no particular reason. McAvoy’s acting artistry is in top form as he dazzles after being in cruise control for the last two years. He is prudish in a pleated midi skirt and illuminates as a precocious nine-year-old boy.
The depth McAvoy brings to the various individuals intensifies Kevin’s struggle with himself and it would have become unintentionally comical if someone lesser assumed the part. What disheartens me most about this thriller-cum-horror is that it is neither exciting nor scary despite the unique premise and outstanding central performances (Taylor-Joy and Buckley supplying commendable support).
Perhaps it is the ambiguity of what Kevin’s dominant ‘others’ have in store for the girls that is haphazardly written undermines the robust buildup in the first and second acts. Taylor-Joy effortlessly projects fear, confusion, and desperation all in just a look. Unfortunately, all I see is a regression from Shyamalan’s 2015 sleeper ‘The Visit’.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behaviour, violence and some language