Movie Review: Split
When you say “M. Night Shyamalan,” most people think “twist.” The Sixth Sense, The Village, The Visit—good or bad, most Shyamalan movies are famous, at least in part, for their twist endings. Split is the type of movie that wishes it had an “I see dead people” ending but doesn’t quite.
The movie follows Kevin, who has dissociative identity disorder and showcases a variety of different personality identities within his one body. He kidnaps three girls, and thus begins the movie. We meet his therapist and see how his disorder manifests; we are with the girls as they figure it out as well. The movie kept me on the edge of my seat at first—how was this disorder going to play into the rest of the movie? How (or would) the girls escape? WHAT would be the clever twist on all these moving parts? Turns out the twist wasn’t very clever, and the second half of the movie basically mirrored the first.
While at the beginning, I was interested in learning more about Kevin and figuring out, as in every thriller, how the film was going to proceed. But as the movie progressed, the same thing kept going on (another of Kevin’s personality identities would come out, and interact with others in the movie, and then switch). It didn’t seem to have any forward momentum except for the notion of “The Beast” that Kevin's personality identities thought would soon emerge, which I guess was the movie’s way of making you wonder if it would. I didn’t really care, and in the end, it didn’t really matter.
Split was still a good movie and the twist did make it better, actually, but I can’t really rationalize having half the movie mean so little to the overall momentum of the plot.
Stars: 3 out of 5
Before M. Night Shyamalan had a minor career resuscitation with The Visit, an M Night Shyamalan thriller about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder sounded like a fitting nail in the coffin for an increasingly disappointing career. Actually, even with a surprise comeback in his pocket, Split seemed destined to make The Visit look like the final gasp of breath every killer takes in every slasher film before being dead for good.
As far as thriller and horror film cliches go, multiple personality disorder has nearly entered "It was all just a dream" territory. Usually, a reveal of multiple personalities is the not-so-mindblowing twist. With Split, it's the premise. The most surprising part of the movie (even more so than the much-buzzed final scene) is that he pulls it off. Sort of.
The first half of Split is considerably better than the second half. Kevin's multiple personalities are intriguingly drawn, the scenes with his psychiatrist are entertaining and suspenseful, and the flashback scenes with the kidnapped protagonist promise a satisfying payoff. And then, with all of the groundwork accomplished, the film resolves in an expected and mildly tedious fashion. It feels like a draft away from a true classic. There's so much to like before it becomes a run-of-the-mill thriller, it's a shame that the climax can't live up to the build-up.
The final 30 seconds of the film are all anyone seems to be able to talk about, but I suspect many will end up disappointed. Without giving too much away, only a fraction of the audience will know what the ending means without having to look it up. Still, it's reasonably clever, if a little opportunistic. For all its flaws, Split has enough redeeming qualities for any fan of thrillers and horror flicks.
How Does It Compare to Other Multiple Personality Disorder Movies?
Better Than: Identity (Oops, Spoiler!)
Worse Than: Fight Club (Oops, Spoiler!)