"This is a two star movie with a five star ending, I am actually so giddy over the ending I have no idea if I really enjoyed Split or not"
Kevin (James McAvoy) suffers from dissociative identity disorder, or DID for short, and has twenty-three distinct personalities that swap control of his body as they deem necessary. He regularly visits Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who has been studying the condition and believes she is on the verge of some kind of breakthrough. She hypothesises that someone with this condition can reach a higher state of being, able to physically alter their body to fit their personalities.
Unfortunately, at least one of Kevin’s personalities has decided to kidnap three girls, Claire, Marcia and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is the real centre of this story, which is strange consider she’s barely in the advertising. She easily gets the most screen time next to McAvoy along with a powerful backstory told in flashbacks throughout the course of the film.
Between the girls trying to escape and his visits to Dr. Fletcher we learn that Kevin is heralding the coming of The Beast, something that may or may not be a previously unseen personality hidden within him, and the girls are intended as “food”. From there it’s a race between the girls trying to escape and Dr. Fletcher putting the pieces together to try and fathom what Kevin is up to and stop him if necessary.
Let me start by saying that Split is a bad film, it just is. Shyamalan still doesn’t have it, he has no idea how to direct horror or action (you can see his previous films for evidence of that) and despite it’s seemingly original premise we’re chocked full of clichés. The story is surprisingly boring, James McAvoy is criminally underused, and the twists/reveals are either stupidly predictable or pointless ... until the last one.
Holy cheese on a cracker I was completely ready to rip this film to shreds as it plodded along and then the final scene hit and I was grinning ear to ear and wiggled excitedly in my chair and began to write a five star review in my head until I snapped back to reality. This sounds ridiculous but I’m being completely serious, the final twist of this movie is so good it saves the whole thing. It’s little more than a fraction of a scene consisting of maybe three lines between two previously unseen characters and it changes everything we thought we knew up to that moment, even to the point of changing the genre of film we’ve been watching this whole time.
Let me remind you, this is basically a bad film. What it seemed like we’d be getting is a creepy character piece around James McAvoy switching personalities at least one of whom decided to kidnap some girls and all have their own motivations and drives, and we get that... a bit but really he’s a background character. This is Casey’s survival horror story and he’s little more than the monster in the dark most of the time. The personalities we meet are all essentially villains, there’s potential for conflict between them and watching McAvoy switch between them is brilliant, especially mid-scene, but none of it has much in the way of purpose.
And once McAvoy finally becomes The Beast it’s kind of silly. Watching him scurry about growling and crawling up the walls like a drunk lizard is arguably much less terrifying than the previous intensity of OCD paedophile Dennis or the underlying sinister nature of calm collected controlling Patricia. Even unpredictable Hedwig, a boisterous nine year old, comes across as more of a threat.
Unfortunately I can’t explain why this underwhelming film has me itching to go see it a second time without spoiling the final twist and if it’s spoiled it might not work. Like I said it changes the entire premise of the movie from top to bottom and until I get round to seeing Split a second time I won’t know if the twist was worth it but after the first viewing I’m conflicted to say the least.
This is a two star movie with a five star ending, I am actually so giddy over the ending I have no idea if I really enjoyed Split or not, though I would love a sequel. See it, maybe, I don’t know. If you’re a fan of Shyamalan’s good movies and are keen for some more of that then give it a try I guess, I’m too confused to say otherwise.