Welcome back M. Night Shyamalan! How awesome it is to see you back in your trademark form by bringing to us Split!
I remember how excited I was when I saw the trailer for Split, that stars James McAvoy as a man with a split personality. Tonight, the cinema hall was buzzing with excitement as men and women, and a few young children, settled down with nervousness in their laughter. The minute the credits began, with the huge title Split flashing on our screen (paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho) we all knew we were in for a thrilling and horrifying ride.
We are introduced to three teenagers, a chatty Claire, Marcia and the somewhat shy Casey who while being picked up from a birthday party are abducted by Kevin (a creepy James McAvoy). The entire abduction scene plays out so terrifyingly real, one cannot help but feel tense and scared.
Now shifted to an underground, makeshift lair of sorts, the girls start to panic and while Claire tries to get the other two to go “crazy ass” on him and run away, the shy Casey feels differently. It comes as a shock to all three of them when they discover that Kevin harbors 23 distinct personalities within him. Things become more scary when Kevin tells them that the “beast” is coming soon and the girls are sacred food for him.
It’s Casey, who engages Kevin by talking to him, hoping that the 9-year-old Hedwig who loves Kanye West (one of many personalities) will lead the girls to escape. We see where Casey gets her survival instincts from in flashbacks to her hunting trips with her father and uncle. While she is able to engage the 9 year old Hedwig, the other personalities don’t like Hedwig and make it hard for the girls to escape while dealing with the other distinct personalities that include Patricia, the English matriarch, Dennis and the flamboyant designer Barry. We know he has something called DID, Disassociative Identity Disorder, which is not a twist, but the premise on which the movie is built upon.
To break the monotony, we see Kevin visit his therapist Dr. Fletcher who understands the various personalities Kevin has. She believes that sometimes people are so damaged that out of that despair and brokenness, something greater can manifest by using their brains. As Dr. Fletcher says, “the body chemistry can change by mere thoughts,” one wonders the power of the human mind and how far it can go.
One of the key statements that Kevin makes is: “The Broken are Evolved.” This I thought spoke so powerfully and has a deep, profound meaning to it and one can understand it in the context it’s spoken in.
The movie basically comes down to psychological childhood trauma and abuse that can manifest into something dangerous if left untreated in an adult’s life. There are two characters who’ve been through childhood trauma, but each has dealt with it differently, which is interesting to witness.
Standing out in the movie is James McAvoy, who’s done a great deal of justice to his character. It’s no mean feat to switch between so many personalities so effortlessly, and it’s not just through his costume change, but through body language, dialect, speech and facial expressions. Equally terrifying is the way he conveys sheer terror by talking about the “beast!” When the “beast” does come, it all makes sense. However, the reason he’s so amazing is that he somehow manages to bring some level of sadness and pity to the character, all the while keeping it creepy- there is a reason why he is the way he is and it’s not entirely his fault. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is nominated for best actor next awards season.
Equally pleasing to watch is Anya Taylor Joy, who plays Casey so well. She manages to show her fear and terror while staying composed so brilliantly well. She was amazing in one of her earlier movie The VVitch and I can forsee she will be the one to watch out for in the future. Betty Buckley, who plays the therapist, a very important character, brings out kindness and love towards her client leading to some disastrous consequences.
Which brings us to the last point of watching any M. Night Shyamalan movie: the twists. Be assured, there are several twists that will surprise you and in my opinion were satisfying and pleasing. Make sure to stay all the way to the end though as the movie connects to a previous masterpiece movie by M. Night Shyamalan.
Creepy, tense, unnerving and scary made Split a brilliant watch, and on that note, I’d like to welcome back M. Night Shyamalan (even though I quite enjoyed The Visit too but still welcome back!)
4 out of 5
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor Joy, Betty Buckley
Synopsis: Three girls abducted try to escape while being held by a man with 23 different personalities, with a 24th being unleashed.
Running time: 117 mins
Seen at: Supercinema, Vogue Towers, Lahore
Approval Ratings: 75% Rotten Tomatoes