Note: This article contains spoilers for old M. Night Shyamalan films, but it doesn't reveal any major plot details for Split, now in theaters. Proceed accordingly.
Split, the 12th feature film by director M. Night Shyamalan, has arrived in theaters with modest fanfare. In the years following the immense success of 1999's The Sixth Sense, a new Shyamalan movie was a seismic cultural event, complete with star-studded premieres and gushing magazine cover stories, like the 2002 issue of Newsweek famously touting the director, then 31 and promoting the sci-fi thriller Signs, as "The Next Spielberg." But by 2010, after a string of critical disappointments, the words "From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" were prompting gleeful derision and South Park punch lines.
So how did the man whose career was built on twists pull off his biggest yet -- a comeback? Especially so soon after the critically lambasted Will and Jaden Smith stinker After Earth? The resurgence began with the former Hollywood wunderkind's The Visit, a well-reviewed and financially successful 2015 found-footage horror movie, and it spikes with Split, a similarly low-budget captivity thriller built around a bonkers James McAvoy performance. The M. Night Shyamalassaince is in full swing.
Time will tell whether the knee-jerk "He sucks!" cries subside -- but maybe that mockery was always unfair. Maybe Shyamalan is actually... ["They called me Mr. Glass" voice] pretty great? To test this theory, let's take a walk through the shadow-strewn Philadelphia streets of the 46-year-old's filmography and see which of his movies are overrated, underrated, or correctly rated. Dead people are welcome.
(Some quick ground rules: I'm skipping Shyamalan's first two non-creepy features -- the 1992 indie Praying with Anger and 1998's Rosie O'Donnell kids movie Wide Awake -- as well as Devil, that dumb-looking 2010 elevator movie he produced but didn't direct. I'm also leaving out the Wayward Pines pilot episode. Movies only.)