Disclaimer: Spoiler review
Well, Mr. Shyamalan is back!!!
Only that he has chosen to show the dark side of his imagination. He wrote and directed this standalone sequel to his hit film “unbreakable” *ok, that was the twist of the film, but you should know it by now*. Split is a very dark, slow-paced thriller which builds up well from the beginning, though you could guess how the result is going to be as it is the only way in which the film will end. As someone who enjoys thrillers, I should be rating this film higher based on that fact that McAvoy delivered class act and M Night Shyamalan has redeemed his post “lady in the water” image. Well, he has only redeemed but not likable.
Kevin (James McAvoy) has 23 personalities. Out of that three, Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig who call themselves the “horde“, are malevolent who intends to do harm in the name of host Kevin’s safety. Hedwig has the ability to keep other personalities especially “Barry” who is the caretaker of the others as prescribed by Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). The Horde wants to the unleash the “beast” who is the evolved version of the personalities. Dennis kidnaps and holds three women captive to be sacrificed to the beast. Out of that, one woman Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is different due to her past experiences of child sexual abuse in the arms of her uncle.
Now, as I mentioned before, this film is undoubtedly Night’s attempts to bring back his image as the master of thrillers. But he just ended up making a film that is a cliche of all the themes that are seen, in a typical suspense thriller that involves a serial killer and his victims, before, combining with stigmatization of a person with mental health problems. It is one of the reasons why I despised the film. Along with that, Shyamalan has to satisfy the adrenaline junkies by giving them what they want. That is, killing off some of its characters. Otherwise, the film focusses on the buildup with fewer dialogues and more visuals focussing on Kevin’s life and Fletcher’s research. The film explains DID and how the personalities can exist in a body.
Women are shown to be at the receiving end of the violence to increase sympathy as well as intensity. Casey, Claire, and Marcia are held as captives. Their unsuccessful escape attempts have resulted in them being isolated from the rest of the group by Dennis after stripping of their “dirty attire”. Now, this film is well received due to the intensity, thrills and the final twist but personally, the biggest drawback of films like Split is that unless one of the characters is killed off the film might not work that well, until it was proven wrong by James Wan with his recent work. I think the film would have worked had all three women survived despite being at the mercy of the beast. I felt as if the film’s appeal died when it was shown that the Dennis and Patricia became successful in terms of offering the girls as “food”. And there were unbelievable moments like when Casey sees Clarie’s body being dragged away, she just stands there with her mouth opened and walks towards her to see what is being done to her. Like really? You see that then you run!
However, despite its flaws, James McAvoy’s performance is worth it. The way he transcends, the difference in his expressions and gestures, and change in accents are all on point. His presence has increased my expectations and he met all of them. His appearance as Patricia is the most daunting as he looks and acts believably like a pitiless lady with no mercy. Anya Taylor-Joy delivered a believable performance as a girl who is both frightened but trying to do something to save herself and her friends. She is an introvert as a result of her experiences with her abusive uncle. Her tolerance for him helped her survive the situation. Notably, when she asked Marcia to pee in her pants when he tried to take her away, thinking that he might spare her from “rape”, and with Dennis being a germaphobe, he did leave her. Jessica Sula is the only person whose performance is less impressive. Her face barely had expressions and looked unintentionally pleasant in most scenes. And there were many close-ups of her. Haley tried to look believable under distress. Betty Buckley delivered a graceful performance and she sounds reassuring and kind as a psychiatrist. I guess people do look forward to her “happening version” and more cheesy dialogues. Planning on stealing something? Planning on murdering me in my sleep? There are cheesy dialogues but not worthy enough for the meme makers.
I think the fact that the film is predictable and that they ended up doing “what they wanted to do” made this film fruitless but if that is what the audience expected in general then Shyamalan simply delivered. More of such violence is expected in the sequel. 😀