True to its name, Split divided my opinion of it. It had some incredible strong points and some parts which seemed uninspired.
Touted as M. Night Shyamalan’s return to form, this psychological thriller-horror flick takes on Dissociative Identity Disorder (more popularly known as multiple personality or split personality disorder). James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man with DID who is diagnosed to have 23 unique personalities. His aggressive personality ‘Dennis’ takes control at the beginning of the film and kidnaps three high school girls and detains them as part of an elaborate ritualistic plan that he has created.
We are informed that Kevin was a victim of child abuse which had led to the creation of his multiple personalities to help deal with the situation. Kevin is under treatment from Dr Karen Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley, who along with Kevin, believes that those with DID are capable of not just emotional but physical transformations as well. I won’t say anymore so I don’t reveal any spoilers but the movie basically keeps building up to the ‘Beast’, a supposed 24th personality capable of superhuman strength to whom the kidnapped girls are told they will be sacrificed.
The movie is a definite step in the right direction for Shyamalan, who has lost his way over several movies now. Though not quite as brilliant as his initial movies, this seems to show he has found his groove. It must also be pointed out that the movie takes creative liberties with the psychological facts, which given that it’s a horror film, is understandable. The screenplay was clearly focused more on fleshing out the characters than creating a unique plot. The movie is paced well at the beginning but the rushed, somewhat predictable and ridiculous last part of the film is a let down. Which is disappointing since Shyamalan is a master at twist endings.
What makes Split unique is the powerhouse performance by James McAvoy. From the moment he enters the screen, he has absolute command over the film. He gives a brilliant performance, slipping into several personalities with just the right amount of madness in his eyes and a creepy tone to scare you. I thought his best efforts were as Barry, a presumably gay fashion designer and as Patricia, a controlling and disturbed female character. Anya Taylor-Joy (as one of the kidnapped girls with a troubled past of her own) and Betty Buckley also give impressive performances highlighting the fact that without this cast, the movie would be mediocre at best.
Full Disclosure: I haven’t watched ‘The Visit’.