Main cast: James McAvoy (Kevin Wendell Crumb), Anya Taylor-Joy (Casey Cooke), Betty Buckley (Dr Karen Fletcher), Haley Lu Richardson (Claire Benoit), and Jessica Sula (Marcia)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
I know, I’m late, but Split never showed up at the cinema near my place back then, and despite really wanting to watch it due to the critical acclaim, it sort of slipped out of my mind until now. M Night Shyamalan had been a punchline up to this point, and this movie redeems his reputation somewhat. One big reason for this is that this is a relatively simple and unpretentious movie, stripped of any unnecessary twists and turns, and the end result is an adrenaline rush of a horror-thriller hybrid.
Simply put, Claire Benoit and Marcia reluctantly agree to Claire’s father giving the neighborhood edgy weird kid Casey Cooke a ride home from school one afternoon, only for the car to be hijacked by a bald-headed Kevin Wendell Crumb. Think of Kevin as Professor X gone wild – he has multiple personalities living inside his head, and his shrink Dr Karen Fletcher counts at least 23 of them. What Dr Karen doesn’t know, aside from Kevin having kidnapped the three girls, is that there is also another personality in Kevin’s head: one called, simply, the Beast. The Beast is worshiped like a deity by two of Kevin’s more unsavory personalities, and it is these two that plot the kidnap and sacrifice of the girls to awaken the Beast. What will happen to the poor girls? Does the Beast really exist?
James McAvoy really pulls off the MVP role here, as he effortlessly switches between various different personalities, all of while maintaining a mesmerizing kind of crazy vibe without going over the top. Kevin may go from a hapless kid to a sinister fiend with a taste of underage flesh, but there’s no denying that he’s not someone to mess with – that guy is deranged and, hence, very dangerous. At the same time, it’s easy to feel sorry for his more genial personalities when they take over and realize what the other personalities had done.
The three young ladies also pull off a pretty good job here, although it takes a while to warm up to Anya Taylor-Joy’s character because M Night Shyamalan jumps on the tedious bandwagon of directors shoving the camera up close at some actor’s face so that the audience can presumably experience a rapture at the sight of someone’s non-moving face for a few minutes. Rooting for them is both easy and heartbreaking, as they are clearly, tragically out of their depths.
Split also boasts excellent build up of tension and fear, without relying on dark lighting or cheap loud noises like other Blumhouse movies. It lulls me easily into thinking that things will be alright, and then, every time, wham, something horrifying happens and I have to raise my hat to Mr Shyamalan – he catches me each time, something he hasn’t done since The Sixth Sense.
Okay, there is a twist towards the end, but it’s just something that ties this movie up in some kind of universe – Hollywood is big about universes these days – and doesn’t really affect the general story line. All in all, this is a simple but very effective chiller-thriller, and hence, it hits all the right spots. Welcome back, Mr Shyamalan.