Split premiered at the 2016 Fantastic Fest before being released widely by Universal Pictures in 2017. This psychological horror is directed by M. Night Shyamalan who is making a comeback after a series of badly reviewed movies, the most notable being After Earth which was heavily criticised. Split is a follow on from the superhero thriller Unbreakable. The film features James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Kevin Crumbs is the main antagonist who suffers from severe dissociative identity disorder. In his particular case his disorder contains 23 separate personalities. Split begins with Crumbs calmly stepping inside of a car with three girls. A moment later and he sprays the confused girls in the face.
At the time of the kidnapping, he was being controlled by Dennis who has violent and obsessive compulsions. We learn that Kevin is seeing his psychiatrist, Dr Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckler) who becomes increasingly concerned in his well-being. As the story progresses she learns that Kevin has another personality, a 24th personality named simply, The Beast. This personality is trying to take control of all the other ones with ill-intent.
The first great feat is the technical precision in which the film is shot and edited. Each camera angle and scene leaves us wondering what is around the corner next. The camera tricks are superb, from the switches of character viewpoints which change in rapid succession to the odd angle shots. Everything is shot so neatly it keeps the illusion of reality strong when viewing.
For all the plot twists and suspension, it would not amount to the heights it reached without McAvoy’s menacing portrayal of Kevin who could be an innocent young kid one moment then a powerful fully-grown man the next which tones the whole film superbly in a wash of unpredictability. Every character is so engaging that we are renewed every time one pops back into the action. McAvoy’s range is on full display here.
Split contains many twists; a trademark of Shyamalan films. The biggest arriving at the end which will leave viewers begging to see the third instalment. However the ending doesn’t feel like it’s always looming on the horizon. The end happens naturally and unexpectedly. We hope this means that Shyamalan is back on form. I am expecting big things for the next film. Maybe we’ll get to see the rest of Crumb’s unique personalities.