by Eric Preisler
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, “Split” attempts to use suspenseful moments and creepy overtones to create a well-balanced horror thriller. While the film is captivating, the storyline is questionable at times and lacks character development.
The film starts off with Kevin (James McAvoy) kidnapping three teenage girls. They soon realize that Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder, or split personality disorder.
McAvoy’s performance is the highlight of this film, as he successfully plays various personalities, some of which stem from trauma in Kevin’s past. Of all of his personalities, Dennis, who kidnaps and locks away the girls, and Patricia, who is a strict and stern woman, are the most dominant out of Kevin’s 23 personalities.
Barry, a flamboyant fashion designer, and Hedwig, a nine-year-old who has a lisp and loves to dance, are good sources of comic relief in an otherwise intense film.
Of the three girls who were kidnapped, Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are sheltered and popular girls. They’re ignorant characters who act rashly and impulsively, showing little development or depth.
The protagonist, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), is antisocial and hides a disturbing back story. Flashbacks of hunting in the woods parallel her capture and the instincts she uses to survive.
However, one of the flashbacks shows how Casey was abused as a child, which is insignificant to the main story line and is only included to elicit shock.
Throughout the film, there is a build up to the so-called “beast.” Patricia eerily mentions to another of Kevin’s personalities that the girls are being saved for the beast, who doesn’t appear until the end of the movie.
While the events leading up to seeing the beast are intense and alluring, and his actions are terrifying, meeting him was unimpressive.
Another disappointment is the psychologist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who seems like an inquisitive and intelligent character in the film until the final moments. She could tell that something was wrong with Kevin and determined the personalities were trying to deceive her.
Despite her wits, she lets us down as a would-be hero. Dr. Fletcher knows something is wrong when Kevin lets her into his home. From glancing around, she is able to see that there are multiple doors that lock on the outside and could be used to imprison someone. Instead of using a cell phone or leaving Kevin’s home to call the police, she snoops further.
She has the potential to save the girls, but she only makes the situation worse for herself and them. These unwise actions are inconsistent with the build up of her sage character, which is frustrating.
Overall, the film is a good guilty pleasure that is full of suspense and shocking moments, but is lacking in-depth character development and satisfying plot points.
Dr. Fletcher’s character could have been consistent throughout the film, but her wisdom vanished at the end. The beast could have been a more realistic, yet creepy concept, but, instead, he was an inconvincible super villain that belonged in a different film.
Besides these details, the actors, especially McAvoy and Taylor-Joy, play their characters convincingly and evoke fear and anticipation as the story unfolds. The developing dynamic between Kevin and the girls as well as Dr. Fletcher is what makes the story interesting.