After his success with 2015’s hit The Visit, M. Night Shyamaylan returns with his latest thriller SPLIT, which features a dynamic performance by actor James McAvoy. The film tells the story of Kevin, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly referred to as Split Personality Disorder) and a total of 23 separate identities – that is until a dangerous and murderous 24th forms, “The Beast,” which causes a few of Kevin’s personalities to gather in a “horde” and rebel against the others by kidnapping three young women in anticipation of The Beast’s arrival.
Before discussing the film any further, I do want to acknowledge that there are some in the mental health community, both professionals and those living with disorders, who are not happy with the portrayal of Kevin in this movie. Many of the complaints I’ve read center around it being another cinematic display of a dangerous or villainous person with mental illness. Although I certainly hear and understand the logic behind the uproar, and don’t want to discount anyone’s validity where an illness is concerned, I would lean more towards their upset if this film pretended to be anything more than the campy, “supernatural” thriller that it is – but it doesn’t. And no one should walk into an M. Night film expecting to be educated on the cause and effect of any disorder – medical or otherwise.
That being said, James McAvoy is really phenomenal as Kevin, and the at least five other personalities we get to see him transform. And although I refused to write about “The Witch,” yes this scaredy cat did screen it but thought better of reviewing since I had
nothing nice to say – scratch that, it was very authentic period wise, dialect, costume etc, better? Anyways, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan) was fierce as the fight-back spirited Casey, one of the kidnapped trio.
And Philadelphia, and its surrounding areas, as an unofficial character always displays nicely on the big-screen. It’s a pleasure to see local areas like 30th street station, the parkway and the oldest zoo in the nation, The Philadelphia Zoo, shone brightly. And appearances by CBS3 anchor Ukee Washington and actor/writer/producer Nakia Dillard (The Wire, Night Catches Us) also give a nice authentic Philly feel.
So is “Split” scary? Not spooky, but it’s chilling enough at its core – albeit there are slow moments as the film builds by showcasing Kevin’s various personalities and a few interactions with his psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). There is also a gore factor once it truly gets rolling, that may freak out the squeamish – one lady sitting in front of me at the Philly screening had to bury her head in her partner’s shoulder several times!
If you’re a fan of Shyamalan, and like several of his prior works, you’ll find Split interesting and fun at the very least. And of course fans of Unbreakable are going to love a special reveal at the end – please no spoilers in the comments for this one!
To sum it up, I found “Split” to be entertaining, although slow at parts, with great performances and a fun ending that maybe sets up a sequel (?) or a… never mind no spoilers so I’ll leave it there! It’s definitely not on par with The Sixth Sense’s savviness, but it’s not a bad follow-up to The Visit and just as fun once it gets going.
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one family, so stop back and leave a comment or two once you see it. SPLIT opened nationwide in theaters today.
Until next thought, Thomasena