He’s got 24 problems, but a bad film isn’t one.
Split unravels the kidnapping of 3 young girls – Claire, Marcia and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) The abductor is Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) who keeps the girls in his basement for reason’s we do not know. We find out that Kevin has DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder; meaning his has 23 different personalities that come out at different stages. As the girls try methods of escape, Casey discovers that a manipulation of Kevin’s weakest personality is their way out of there.
The only other person aware of Kevin’s disorder is his long-time therapist Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) She attempts her best to prevent Kevin’s 24th and most feared personality coming through. She fails, however and ‘The Beast’ is unleashed.
If there is one thing I love in films, it is an unpredictable twist. As someone who can predict everything, when I don’t see it coming; I’m on the verge of love. Now, I enjoy M Night Shyamalan films, but I don’t love them. I was hoping Split maybe the one to change this but it became another example to affirm the statement above. However, don’t be disheartened because this is still a gripping venture down the rabbit hole of insanity.
The biggest draw is no doubt the exploitation of the human character. The message is delivered beautifully by the stunning vessel that is James McAvoy; he was simply a work of art. To begin with, we see him as Dennis; a cold brute with a knack for cleanliness that carries out the abductions. It then fluctuates to Hedwig; a 9 year old boy with a cute lisp and love of Kanye West. We then see Patricia; a sophisticated yet quietly deceptive Englishwoman and Barry; an eccentric fashion designer. These are a few of 23 personalities, with a 24th burgeoning in the form of ‘The Beast’. McAvoy’s master performance enables us to decipher who is who even without the differentiating costumes. Simply by through an eye twitch, a tighter walk, a cocked smile. It’s so effortless and that is the acting I admire most.
Casey, played by Taylor-Joy is the supporting protagonist and she does well against the mighty McAvoy. Her character against the other two is quiet and mousey; I much preferred this compared to the preppy stereotypes (Claire and Marcia) I know they were there to complete Shyamalan’s plot but you almost didn’t need them; it didn’t bring any substance. (Also, the actress who played Marcia was god awful) As we progress, Shyamalan dares to draws parallels between Casey and Kevin. Dotted flashbacks inform us that Casey has been sexually abused by her uncle; and her upbringing has left it’s mark both mentally and physically. Hence why her navigation through the kidnapping seems easier compared to the others; she’s dealt with predators before. I actually really enjoyed watching their relationship blossom. It feels wrong to say when the circumstances are wildly opposite but it’s so genuine.
Split is labelled as a horror but for me, it isn’t. The violence is kept to a minimum but the thrill is delivered through the psychological aspects. I can understand how severe mental illness might not be the most appropriate plot driver. However, isn’t that the scariest thing in itself? How something so common can effect anyone and their behaviour? It’s a sensitive subject and sure, it can be seen as negative but come on, remember it’s just a film!
Shyamalan executes his theme respectfully; and one way we can see this is within Kevin’s therapy sessions with his counsellor Dr Fletcher. It brings back humanity to Kevin as he loses his total grip of reality. Some scenes portray Dr Fletcher pushing the importance of DID to others, which highlights the seriousness behind’s Splits message. On the other hand, I felt it was out of context with the story and preferred if it had stayed within the limit of the sessions.
The opening shots and particularly a few during McAvoy monologues were brilliant. It heightens the sense of claustrophobia and McAvoy prolonged the shots with each of his character; so the sense of dread was built from the very beginning. I also noticed the simplicity of background; it was remarkably quiet. If you imagine yourself watching a scene full of suspense that is so eerily quiet; what do you do? You sit there still, muscles tensed, because you don’t know what to expect. I can confirm – this happened with Split.
The set reflected Kevin’s mind beautifully. It was a bare, prison-like lair that was empty of colour and warmth. The only room that had some vibrancy was the one that housed his personalities costumes. The climax of events started off strongly; it was a mixture of gore, shock and compassion weirdly; but I do think the ultimate ending didn’t fit quite well. In true Shyamalan fashion, there is a twist at the very end which would delight many true fans, but seeing as I’m not on that ticket, it didn’t wow me as much as it could of done. (Don’t worry I will work on changing that)
M Night Shyamalan is a well-loved director whose expectation of films are always high. After not delivering for a while, last years ‘The Visit’ was a good watch and fans seemed to agree. Split, however, shows he is back in business. Shyamalan groupies would have been peeing their panties now he has brought forward a calibre of film that can be deemed fantastic. If you are familiar with his work, you can probably guess this is his film just through his trademarks. I, myself am not that intimate so perhaps it didn’t click my heels just as much. But now I want to be – and that’s saying something!
Overall, it’s a choppy wave of tension that essentially investigates humans and their capabilities. The capability to become 24 different beings , born out of our mind. The capability to find similarities and form relationships with those who have wronged you. And the capability to be strong when nothing is good. I really appreciate when a thriller isn’t typically what you expect. The format lies differently because it wants to horrify you not with CGI or blood but the mere thought of mutation, sexual abuse, cannibalism. To those with a more imaginative mind, this is what will truly scare you. And if that alone doesn’t enthuse you; then watch it to purely check out McAvoy’s performance because ones like that don’t happen all the time.
4 out of 5 Hedwigs (he’s my favourite one)