It's hard to remember, but there was a time when a new M. Night Shyamalan film was an event in and of itself. In 2002, at the ripe old age of thirty-two, there might have been no more hotly anticipated film of the year than the director's fifth film, Signs, but what was only his third feature since defining himself as the auteur he seemed destined to be. Fifteen years later and we are in a very different time and space. After the success of Signs (over $400 million globally on a $72 million budget) the studio system continued to only throw more and more money at the writer/director and increasingly his films became examples of trying too hard to do what his first few features had seemingly done with such ease. After 2008's utterly confounding The Happening it seemed Shyamalan might have given up completely as he then resorted to being a director for hire on projects like The Last Airbender and After Earth, but even in these endeavors he experienced some of the more scathing reviews and certainly some of the worst box office returns of his career. Where was the director to go? What was there to do next that might reinvigorate his career? Did this once glorious storyteller that TIME magazine so famously labeled "The Next Spielberg" even care to continue to put forth effort and/or art into the world or was he done? In one way or another it feels like we haven't had the real Shyamalan with us for some time. That the person he was in his early thirties had been lost to the grueling system and there was no certainty as to whether he'd ever come back. In truth, Shyamalan hasn't taken a break longer than three years in between films since 1998 film Wide Awake and those three years came in between Airbender and After Earth. It was only two years after the nepotism on a spaceship tale that was Will Smith's After Earth that we caught a glimpse of who we thought Shyamalan was and might become again. I didn't write about The Visit, Shyamalan's 2015 feature that experimented with the found footage approach, but it was a deliciously pulpy little thriller that not only provided a signature Shyamalan twist that worked with the rest of the narrative, but melded the humor, the uncertainty, and the tension of the situation in ways that felt organic-as if the marriage of story and image were flowing out of the director like they hadn't in some time and this upward trend in quality only continues with Split. Like The Visit, Split is set in a single location and relays a rather simple story in both interesting and horrific ways. It is a portrait of a character and in being that it explores a subject with multiple personalities it might be something of a twisted self-portrait from a director who was labeled as one thing, attempted to remain that thing until he was told he wasn't good at that thing anymore and then tried something else only to fail thus forcing him to re-invent himself once more.