First of all, I'd just like to thank Blogger for deleting my whole goddamn review after it was 3/4 finished. Bravo.
|James McAvoy as a 9 year old!|
The story focuses on Kevin - a man suffering from DID (Disassociative Identity Disorder), which means that 23 distinct personalities live inside him. When possessed by one of these such personalities, he becomes so attached to them that he feels that he is actually that person (if you catch my drift). One of these such personalities kidnaps three teenage girls (who I assume are supposed to be around 13/14 years old) and takes them back to a purpose-made lair to await the creation of 'The Beast' - a new personality that threatens to take things to a whole new level. This narrative of the girls attempting to escape from McAvoy's clutches jostles with a secondary storyline of Kevin's psychiatrist - played with aplomb by Betty Buckley - trying to figure out what's going on with her patient before it's too late. So far so good.
Well, no. I'll admit now that I was heavily disappointed by this movie.
In fact, this leads me nicely onto the second issue with 'Split' - that for a psychological thriller, it is neither scary nor thrilling. Throughout this entire film, I felt not one speck of tension (despite in the opening scenes which are rather good). Towards the end, I tried to force myself to get into its spirit - to feel a palpable atmosphere - but my circuits just came up blank. Instead, what we've got is a clear-cut situation. The main character, a reclusive outcast played by Anya Taylor Joy is clearly going to survive, and it's a PG-13 (15 over here in the UK) so not much else can happen.... McAvoy is rather funny and non-threatening in the majority of scenes, with only the sinister paedophillic character providing any chills. And, indeed, this unsatisfactory interplay continues all the way until the third act, when the Beast is unleashed. For me, at this point the movie became so ridiculous (running like a dog, climbing flat walls etc.) that I didn't know whether to laugh or not. Sure, other people in the cinema were gasping as if paralysed with fear - but I genuinely was getting absolutely nothing from it.
|Running through the corridors in the final scenes.|
Secondly, on that point, Shyamalan seems to be worryingly sexually obsessed with these young characters. The actresses may all be around 20; but in the film, they're clearly being used to play young high-schoolers. Throughout 'Split', McAvoy's most perverted character, Dennis, progressively forces the girls to take items of their clothing off - so that after 20 minutes, we're left with a trio of scantily clad girls in hotpants/skirts and tights running around in a basement screaming. Infer from that what you will, but I think Shyamalan has some answering to do. On top of this, his camera angles seem to accentuate a sexual nature to the scenes which didn't need to be there in the first place. In one attempted escape scene, particularly, he incessantly focuses on the tights and legs of one of the girls; and in the final scenes, Anya Taylor Joy is practically naked - running screaming through the corridors.
|You can really feel the 'It Follows' here.|
Sure, despite all that negativity, 'Split' does have some notable positives. The opening scene is fantastically intense and disturbing - not to mention beautifully filmed by 'It Follows' cinematographer Mike Gioulakis. The opening credits, themselves, are also a work of art - that unfortunately oversell the rest of the movie. McAvoy's performance, although goofy, is entertaining to watch - and had he covered the full hog of personalities, no doubt my review would have been very different. It's rather funny (intentionally) in a number of points - which is always a plus. If you can overlook the supreme trashiness of the plot, then perhaps you can find some interesting (and perhaps even thrilling depending on what you like) entertainment, And, despite lacking in the chills that I had wanted, the finale does provide some darker thematic material that I really enjoyed watching. One scenee, in particular (you'll know when you see it), had surprising emotional heft for me. Despite being, at times, slow - it's never actually boring,
|This time he's a woman!|
So there you have it, 'Split' isn't very good. It's not horrifically bad, but it underdelivers on almost every front - creating a lukewarm mess of tonal mistakes and unintentional jokes. The twist is good though (after I had to Google it :)).
|'Split' gets 2 stars!|