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Maybe it’s not saying much to note this is M. Night Shyamalan’s best film in years; what really seals the hey-this-is-good deal here is James McAvoy, who elevates this horror handily.

True confession: I love James McAvoy. I love him from afar, when he’s on that screen, bringing an amazing, full blown integrity to each and every part I’ve ever seen him play. Yes, he even made me care, actually care, about an X-Man. And it’s no wonder that an actor of his range would just about salivate to grab the lead in this multi-personality scare fest. After all, he gets to play not just one, but 23 or 24 or so characters here. Or so they tell me. We get to meet most of them along the way of this grizzler, as he/she/and it kidnap three high school girls and hide them in a basement room. I, frankly, lost count or at least lost interest in counting them. It was far too much fun to watch McAvoy reveal them: a presumably gay dress designer, a prudish diabetic, even the rather silly super-human beast who all these shades of Dennis fear so much. But, as entertaining as that is (and it is), my favorite scene hardly involved any dialogue at all. It’s a small moment, as therapist flatters patient into allowing a hidden character to step to the forefront. McAvoy listens and, in front of our eyes, without saying a word, changes from one person into another. I would watch a loop of that over any gazillion dollar special effect any day.

Kudos to Anya  Taylor-Day, who gets the brunt of the high schooler load and especially Betty Buckley, who, allowing the camera to get thisclose, looks as beautiful as any compassionate therapist should. And yes, don’t leave early: there’s a good goof at the end which will delight Shyamalan fans. And leaves all of us feeling a bit split on the script, but sold on its execution.

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