Kevin has 23 different personalities living within him, and the 24th is about to be unleashed.
Director M. NIght Shyamalan has had one of the most significant downfalls in cinematic history, after hitting it big with The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), Shyamalan had a slow and steady decline with flops like The Happening (2004), The Last Airbender (2010), and After Earth (2013). After taking a slight hiatus from directing, Shyamalan returned with his found footage thriller The Visit (2015) which received mixed reviews but was credited with being one of Shyamalan’s best in over a decade. Now, Shyamalan has returned again with another thriller, Split (2017).
Split (2017) was hyped up exponentially, that is a fact, but it is by far Shyamalan’s best film in over a decade. Tension is what makes Split (2017) unique, each sequence is often unpredictable due to the amount of personalities living within one body. Each personality that Kevin has his or her’s standout attributes and characteristics. The most violent are the ones that add the most tension, while the others show how truly psychotic one person can be. The film explores the theory that if we are affected by DID (dissociative identity disorder), our bodies adapt to that specific personality. This adds a layer of depth to the film not often seen in other thrillers, while Kevin may be the one with the body, his personalities take control and use him as a vessel to accomplish their goal of creating the 24th personality living within Kevin. Each of the personalities are in fact their own characters, and they all have their standout moments throughout the unfolding of the plot.
Split (2016) is by far one of the best thrillers released recently and this is all due to the main antagonists. They are by far the best part of the whole film. Split (2017) is a psychological horror film, and it accomplishes just that. It tells a intricate and well-developed story with an interesting antagonist. This is also the film’s key flaw. Dennis (one of the 23 identities, and one of the most violent) kidnaps three girls that he deems “unpure”. He has a plan of how he will use them in order to uncover the 24th identity. While this may seem interesting at first, in the end, it is a little disappointing. The evolution of Kevin’s character or characters that reside in him are the best parts of the film.
In many scenes you often find yourself trying to deduct which personality has taken hold of Kevin’s body and it makes each scene highly entertaining and ambiguous. In any moment one of the 23 people living inside of Kevin can take hold, and this can turn violent. While there are many parts of the film that show the different personalities of Kevin, not all are shown. In fact, the film mainly focuses on 6 of the 23, Dennis, Patricia, Hedwig, Barry, Jade, and The Beast. This is actually quite disappointing because the very concept of being captive by a man that has over 23 different identities living within him, in which any of them can appear is actually quite interesting. Unfortunately, you will only see a select few which is in no way a bad thing, considering how distinct and well developed these identities are, it still feels like a missed opportunity to show the rest of the personalities living inside Kevin.
Tension is felt throughout the film, considering how quickly one the many identities can appear within a second and turn the situation violent. This is the psychological thrill that comes with watching Split (2016), the unpredictability of each scene makes each encounter with one of Kevin’s personalities makes Split (2016) a unique and enjoyable experience. While the other identities that are revealed vary, one is the main comic relief and is one of the most memorable. The character of Hedwig, an identity that resides within Kevin that has the mind of a nine year old, often adds some humor during his appearances.
While Kevin and his variety of different personalities are the primary antagonists of the film, the main character Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is also equally as interesting. Her friends are often the least interesting part of the film and are not nearly as likeable. There are some scenes that are flashbacks of Casey’s childhood. These sequences can often be extremely dark and unnerving considering the type of trauma she endured at a young age. Her development is unique in its own right. It revolves around her finding the strength to survive after years of enduring trauma and despair. In fact the scenes she is broken down and in shock are often the best confrontations between her and whatever identity that has taken hold of Kevin. Her performance is exceptional given the fact that she has only recently had her first feature film debut in The Witch (2015). Her patience helps her survive, while her “friends” often prove to be impatient and on many occasions cliche. At first Casey, is quiet and is trying to deduct exactly what she is dealing with, and that is her only way of defense. She can only observe, not take action, but towards the conclusion she finds the strength to take the initiative.
The character of Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) does have some interesting scenes where she attempts to deduct on which personality has taken hold of Kevin, and as she begins to see a difference in his behavior, she attempts to figure out “their” intentions. Unfortunately, these scenes will often break the tension and immersion, as the film will randomly cut to one of the identities speaking with Karen, which often proves to be the most uninteresting part of the film.
The story follows the kidnapping of three girls, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson), and Marcia (Jessica Sula), by Kevin, a man diagnosed with over 23 different personalities, in which two are looking to the create the 24th, the Beast. While in captivity, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) is attempting to deduct which personality has taken control over the others, and what he or she intends to do.
The story is intriguing and different, the concept of a character having multiple identities is in fact a unique way of establishing depth to a story. Split (2016) does accomplish this with flying colors, James McAvoy has an outstanding performance, and plays each identity perfectly and he is by far one of the most memorable antagonists seen in recent thrillers. Each scene in the beginning is ambiguous, as you the viewer are also trying to deduct who and what makes each of Kevin’s 23 distinct personalities intriguing. After you get the basic layout of who they are, there are many moments where deduction can make each scene with Kevin better, as there are moments where one of his 23 distinct personalities traits will take hold. There are moments where he is at first calm, but he quickly turns belligerent.
While Split (2017) does the job a psychological thriller should, which is to add tension to a unique and interesting story, there are definitely some flaws that come with it. While in the film, it is stated that Kevin has over 23 different personalities living inside him, but unfortunately, only a select few make the cut. While yes it may be difficult to show 23 different identities under two hours, there are many instances in the film where a certain scene could’ve been cut in order to show another identity. Instead only a couple appear as video files near the conclusion.
The story of Dr. Karen Fletcher is by far the least intriguing part of the film, which is unfortunate given the opportunity to tell the chemistry between an ambitious doctor, and a patient that is being that has over 23 different identities living inside him. She is also by far the most cliche character in the film with almost no standout scene. A wasted opportunity to say the least.
There are some pacing issues, but this only happens when the film breaks the tension and immersion to tell the story of Karen Fletcher which luckily only happens a few times. But overall the pacing is excellent and is by far one of the best thrillers released in a long while.
- Excellent and highly intriguing story that is not afraid to explore it’s originality in a unique manner.
- Each scene with Kevin or one of his personalities is highly deductible and often ambiguous. Every scene he is in has some hint as to who is in control or trying to take control of Kevin’s body. There are moments where one of the traits from one of the other identities will lash out or reveal itself, and this makes each and every seen with Kevin the best parts of the film.
- Overall great pacing with many with a standout performance from both James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.
- For a low budget thriller, the set pieces are amazingly well detailed and original in their own right.
- Fantastic dialogue that explores one man’s sanity in a variety of different characters living inside him. Each identity is in depth and all are uniquely different given their own traits.
- Well done cinematography that proves that Mike Gioulakis has improved on his previous work in It Follows (2015). Does a fantastic job of showing tension of the girls many escape attempts, and the isolation of Kevin’s life.
- In all, Split connects well with M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) and is an excellent spin off which adds a unique character to the Unbreakable (2000) franchise.
- Considering the low budget, the films overall soundtrack does a great job of immersing the viewer into a highly tentious scene.
- Dr. Karen Fletcher’s story is by far the most uninteresting part of the film, which is a shame considering the opportunity to tell an unique story about a doctor and her patient. But instead, most scenes ruin the build up in tension by cutting back to one of Kevin’s personalities talking to her about how he is doing. While these scenes do add some background, and often are somewhat interesting as you tend to notice another identities trait randomly comes out while another has already taken hold on Kevin’s body. But it is still a wasted opportunity to add more depth to her character and subplot.
- Some pacing that again involves Dr.Karen Fletcher’s story, like I have stated, there moments where there is a high amount of tension that has been built up, but this quickly disappears because of a jump cut to another scene that basically shows Karen talking to one of Kevin’s personalities.
- A wasted opportunity to show all of Kevin’s 23 different identities, there is only a select few that have appearances, while some only appear once in a video file found by the main character. Hopefully, considering that M. Night Shyamalan is planning a possible sequel, these separate identities will be explored.
- Definitely some continuity errors, it does not affect the film that much, but if noticeable it does break the immersion.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Overall, Split (2017) is an excellent addition to the thriller genre in a long while, and is one of the best thrillers released in 2017. It’s bleak and isolated tone with an excellent antagonist makes a highly tentious and entertaining film. Hopefully from this point, director M. Night Shyamalan will improve upon his previous flops such as The Last Airbender (2010) and The Happening (2008). While there are have only been a certain amount of thrillers released since the new year, Split (2017 has gotten thriller genre off to a good start. Split (2017) accomplishes its job as a thriller to add tension and on some occasions fear to the viewer, it tells an intriguing and highly original story while also introducing a belligerent character.
West Dylan Thordson
Luke Franco Ciarrocchi
Blinding Edge Pictures
January 17th, 2017
117 minutes (1 hour and 57 minutes)