Monday, March 13, 2017
* spoilers *
Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. After a traumatic event, previously banned personalities take over and kidnap 3 girls to serve as "sacred food" for the fabled 24th personality called the Beast. The three girls Casey, Claire, and Marcia try to escape from Kevin as some of his personalities try to contact their therapist Dr. Fletcher, who realizes something is wrong and tries to figure it out while advocating for her patients with dissociative identity disorder. Only time will tell if Casey, Claire, and Marcia can escape before they are eaten.
M. Night Shyamalan's latest films have not been awful. For a while, I refused to see it if his name was attached to it due to the awfulness of Signs, The Village, and The Happening. The Visit was ok and Split is also firmly in ok territory, not spectacular but not awful. It starts out with promise as Dennis, one of Kevin's more intense personalities with aberrant predilections, knocks out and kidnaps best friends Claire and Marcia plus outsider Casey. Right away, it's clear that Casey was a pity invite to go shopping and the only reason she was there was because her uncle 's car broke down. Dennis puts them in a room and they have no idea why, but the flowers seem to indicate that they are special in some way. Casey is more analytical and quiet while the others want to attack right away because their not as observant. I really enjoyed that none of the girls was portrayed as dumb, but they had different approaches that were pretty well thought out.
The scenes in Kevin's underground lair are tense as Casey tries to exploit his more vulnerable personalities like Hedwig to escape. This leads to a hilarious scene of Hedwig's dancing, which is nice comic relief that didn't take up as much time as the rapping in The Visit. James McAvoy does a wonderful job making each personality distinct with their own voice, gestures, expressions, and mood. They have different genders, age, likes, dislikes, allergies, medical conditions, and even strength. We only see glimpses of many of the personalities, but we see Hedwig, Patricia, and Dennis the most. His performance is comparable to Tatiana Maslany as all of the clones in Orphan Black. One of the things that detracted a bit from the film was Dr. Fletcher's extended speeches convincing people the DID is a real condition that gives people what sometimes looks like supernatural powers. It halts the trajectory of the plot and seems too much like convincing the audience over and over of this.
My other problem is with the ending. We finally see the fabled Beast and he does eat some of his sacred food (although leaves most of it behind which I thought was super wasteful). His reasoning for targeting those specific two girls (Claire and Marcia) were because they were untouched by trauma. He ends of sparing Casey because of her physical scars from lifelong abuse from her uncle that we see intercut into the film. Kevin makes huge assumptions about the girls and doesn't take into account that trauma often leaves emotional scars and not physical ones. The film has a weird inconsistency there that distracted me. I get that he values people who have seen trauma but his methods are frankly dumb. This film is a slight step in the right direction as the only personalities condemned as aberrant are The Beast and his followers, but it's still not great as someone with a mental illness is demonized and yet again put in a villainous role.
Split held my interest throughout the film even if parts of it were uneven and not well thought out. M. Night Shyamalan is back to making decent films and I would probably see his next film. However, it seems like he's gearing up for a kind of superhero/supervillain confrontation that goes outside the horror realm. I didn't really expect that and the ending fell a bit flat to me as a result. Other than that, it was a pretty decent film. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Casey wonderfully and I hope to see her in many genre films to come.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins