In a way, the career of M. Nigh Shyamalan has coincided perfectly with my growth as a movie goer. I was twelve when his movie The Sixth Sense was in theaters, but it would prove to be only one of two movies I would have seen of his on the big screen (the other being Signs). Word of mouth has stopped me from seeing films like The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening.
Now we arrive at Split, which I, like many, had some form of hope for going into the theater. I had heard that it was Shyamalan’s return to form, and proof that he may be back. He may be back, but not in a good way (though it is at least not as bad as The Last Airbender).
The movie starts out with three teenage girls Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, who was the best friend in The Edge of Seventeen), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) leaving a party. Claire’s father (Neal Huff) is attacked, and the girls are kidnapped by a mysterious man called Dennis (James McAvoy). We soon learn that Dennis’s real name is Kevin, and he suffers from multiple personalities (Dennis is the dominant one).
Kevin is being treated by Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who is determined to prove that there are positive attributes to the mind of a person with multiple personalities. Ok, I know very little about psychology, but there is a lot that I don’t know if it is possible or not. There is even a moment when we see one of the personalities (I believe it was Jade) who explains (in a video diary) how it is weird she is the only one who needs an insulin shot for diabetes.
Shyamalan is known for giving us twists at the end, and Split is no exception. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that when we find out where he is keeping the girls, I found myself wondering how on earth could no one see him sneaking them in there in the first place? I also think they would be aware that someone such as Kevin would be having problems if they let him around there to begin with.
There are two positive aspects to the film, and both are two performances. James McAvoy is clearly a great actor, and gives a dynamic performance as all the personalities (though the movie says he suffers from 23 different personalities, we only get about nine, according to IMDB. So really what is the point of the other 14?) The other is the performance by Anya Taylor-Joy. Her Casey is the outcast of the three girls (the other two did not want to invite her to the party in the first place), yet we get flashbacks of past events in her childhood that are almost as disturbing as her current situation. Anya Taylor-Joy (who was also in 2016’s highly underrated and far better film The Witch) has scenes with McAvoy where you can sense even the veteran thespian is seeming impressed with the younger actress. Remember her name, because she does have potential to be a bright star in Hollywood.
Parents, the movie is PG-13 mainly for the thematic elements and swearing. There is blood, but not tons of it. The girls are also asked to remove clothing (Dennis hates dirt, even on clothes), so they are forced to be without a shirt or pants. Basically, High School and above, though there are better movies for anyone of any age.
Had the movie been only about kidnapping Casey (the other girls were superfluous, though the actresses are still talented), and the personality count been reduced, the movie may have been a little better. Still, there are too many things wrong with this movie for me to recommend it. Better yet, go to Redbox, On Demand, or Netflix and see if either have the movie The Witch (if not, go to the local video store). That is far more worth your time if you want a good scare.
Overall: Two Stars **