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“Split” (Written Review & Trailer)







Review by John M. Delia, Jr.

Very disturbing and frightening at times, the film Split puts director M. Night Shyamalan back in movie theaters. Coming off the sinister shocker The Visit, which earned over $98 million in 2015, he’s chosen a good weekend for his new horror thriller with its only competition xXx sequel and The Founder. The trailer should drive all the thrill seekers and especially mature pre-teens to 20’s horror fans into seats this weekend, making it the top box-office winner. But except for a few of Shyamalan’s movies, it has his signature weak “how did that just happen” finale.

Ending her birthday party at a mall restaurant popular teenager Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) and two remaining guests have been joined by Claire’s father (Neal Huff). He’s there to provide a ride home for his daughter and her best friend Marcia (Jessica Sula) a member of the “in crowd” at their high school. He offers a ride to Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), an emo who was invited by Claire “to help her out of her loner fixation”, but she says she’ll take the bus.

James McAvoy as Denis in SPLIT

After convincing Casey that he’ll get her home without a problem. Mr. Benoit accompanies the three girls to his car. A distraught voice is heard at the rear of the car then Denis (James McAvoy) jumps into the front seat gassing the girls with a sleep inducing spray. (All of this is shown in the trailer for the film and takes place within the first few minutes).

Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) being held captive in SPLIT

The terror continues as the three girls wake up in a cellar of a building with several rooms. As with most of his films director and screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan keeps his audience guessing as to what’s important to the plot. Especially in Split where he plays out the gripping tale of his main character, a deranged multi-personality maniac, slowly building to a climax of creepy revelations of the consequences.

Denis (James McAvoy) looks over Dr Karen Fletcher’s (Betty Buckley) shoulder in SPLIT

He introduces several of the oddball personas during conversations with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), a noted psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia. But, Shyamalan tends to get predictable and mundane at times during the evolution of his multi-polar antagonist. He loses contact with his target audience expecting them to accept the mediocre changes in each of the physical appearances inside his character. While it may be possible for a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) to look like an ordinary person, most horror fans want to see the antagonists inside him be as frightful and shocking as possible.

Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) tries to escape in SPLIT

Performances that save most of the film come from the three teens who show some thought behind their actions to escape their captor. The standout is Casey, the emotionally abused girl Anya Taylor-Joy creates. She’s a smart and daring teen with a difficult past. But the hidden secrets give her the grit when Casey’s back is to the wall. I like her acting and all around characterization showing she knows her way around a set, can interpret script and be comfortable in front of a camera. She the title role in the recent release of the film Morgan where she dominates the screen as a renegade android.

As the psychotic daemon, James McAvoy brings forth a very disturbed man cornered by 23 persons living inside his mind. He struggles to control the personas, but cannot escape their desires for killing, especially the “Beast”. His portrayal of Hedwig, the young boy who’s less aware of the cravings of the other 22 personalities, provides the catalyst for the dangerous try at escaping all the lunacy. It’s one of McAvoy’s best characters in this evil struggle against himself.

James McAvoy as Hedwig in SPLIT

As usual director M. Night Shyamalan makes a cameo appearance in the film and there’s also a special appearance by a character from one of his earlier movies. The distractions are not necessary, yet it shows that Shyamalan still has his Alfred Hitchcock complex. Both scenes however, gave me some comedic relief from the very tight coiled chiller.

Split has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language. This is one of those films that should be parental guided before allowing immature teens see the movie. The characters portrayed are very evil at times, the killing looks quite gory, and brutality to women very evident.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An above average chiller that should quench the thirst of most fans of the genre. (3 of 5 stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley, and Neal Huff
Directed and written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Horror, Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: January 20, 2017
Distributed by: Universal Pictures

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