Split is a 2016 psychological horror/thriller movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Three teenagers, Claire, Marcia, and outsider Casey, are kidnapped by a menacing stranger named Kevin. They are rendered unconscious and taken to an unknown location. Once they regain consciousness they begin to plan their escape. Things become complicated, for lack of a better word. The girls soon learn that their captor has an increasingly unstable multiple-personality-disorder.
Over the years, Kevin has been treated by his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher, and appears stable: all of his personalities sit in chairs in a room, waiting for their turn “in the light”. “Barry” seemingly has control over who gets their turn in the light. Two personalities, “Dennis” and “Patricia”, are kept out because of Dennis’s voyeuristic tendencies and obsessive–compulsive disorder. Not only that but both personalities worship “The Beast”, a rumoured 24th personality.
The three girls realize Kevin’s nature when they meet “Patricia”, who dresses as a woman. Casey seeks to befriend “Hedwig”, a personality that claims to be a nine-year-old boy, who confides that they will be sacrificed to “The Beast”. He says that he stole control over the light from “Barry” and was persuaded to help “Dennis” and “Patricia”. When Claire attempts to escape, “Dennis” locks her in a separate cell.
Marcia & Claire wanted to attack “Dennis” or one of his other personalities whenever the opportunity arose. Casey is against the idea and decides to take a different approach. She attempts to be more subtle in order to gain the trust of one or more of the personalities. “Hedwig” is a child after all; she believes she may be able to reason with him most of all. It works to an extent but the child fears “The Beast”.
The issue that they face is that not only does Kevin change personalities. His entire body seems to change physically as well. There is a cool moment when “Hedwig” is attempting to force open a door but he is incapable because he has the strength of a young child. He suddenly switches to “Dennis” and pushes the door open with the power of a grown man.
He proves on more than one occasion that he is very strong physically. Seeing as he tends to switch personalities quite rapidly, it would be very difficult to even know when to attempt to attack him.
Will the girls escape? Or will “The Beast” be unleashed?
My favourite aspect of Split is undoubtedly James Mcavoy’s performance. His ability to convincingly switch from one personality to another is as impressive as it is chilling. There is a scene in which an unstable Kevin transforms from one personality to the next in the space of a few moments. He’s the young, naïve “Hedwig” then the manipulative “Patricia” and then the stern “Dennis” with flashes of others in between. How he has never won any truly significant award is beyond me. He manages to capture the massive weight and volatile emotions that someone might feel with such a disorder.
The unpredictable nature of the whole thing adds a nice tension to the film as a whole. It makes you question what you might do to survive if you were one of the girls.
I think the film did a great job of making you feel sympathy for Kevin. However, you realise that his disorder is something he literally cannot control so he must be stopped. Once he becomes “The Beast” the tension switches into overdrive. “The Beast” is why Split is considered to be a horror movie. It reminded me of Francis Dolarhyde and his transcendence into the red dragon. Kevin becomes beyond unbalanced and it leads to some extremely unsettling moments.
Also, I really enjoyed the performance of Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Casey. She was great in The Witch and is excellent at showing great fear and emotion through her eyes and expressions rather than mere words.
Split is more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie. There is some gore near to the end of the flick but I think it may have been slightly misjudged. I wouldn’t call it particularly scary, more like tense and suspenseful but in the most complimentary way possible. This is a film worth watching because it provides something a little bit different and that’s always wonderful to see. I’m not sure how good it would be without James Mcavoy’s performance but it is there and it is awesome.
I have seen many people defend the girls not simply escaping when they have the chance but I do see it as a little bit of a logical flaw. Still, I can’t remember many horror movies that would have functioned very well without a number of logical flaws
Oh and if you’re the type of person that looks out for that Shyamalan “twist” then you won’t be disappointed, at least I wasn’t.