If you are looking for a film that will freak out and entertain you, look no further than “Split.”
The story is set in Philadelphia and revolves around three friends, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), with the story mainly seen through the eyes of Casey. While Casey’s friends are bubbly and seem like typical teenage girls, Casey is more reserved and is characterized as someone who thinks deeply before she acts. The girls are kidnapped by a random man (James McAvoy) and wake up in a confined windowless room, with only two beds and a bathroom.
This setup helps the audience experience the claustrophobia that the characters are feeling. Marcia and Claire are terrified while Casey remains calm and reasons that they should not act rashly. She believes they should wait for the opportunity to escape instead. Casey’s rational demeanor seems strange to the audience and makes us more curious about her character and why she behaves this way.
One of the film’s most interesting characters is Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who studies Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Despite warnings from colleagues and neighbors, Dr. Fletcher shows great compassion toward her patients, whom she sees as remarkable and misunderstood. She takes it upon herself to let the world know how great people with DID are.
Her compassion makes her character likable, especially when we are used to seeing people who work with the mentally ill as cruel, like Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” One of her patients is Kevin Wendell Crumb, who has 23 personalities. It is revealed to the audience that one of Kevin’s more dangerous personalities, Dennis, is the man who kidnapped the three teens.
McAvoy’s performance as Kevin is complex and admirable because he plays multiple characters disguised as one man. Some of Kevin’s dominant personalities beside Dennis are Patricia, a motherly figure who cooks for the girls, and Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy, whom Casey befriends and who serves as comic relief in the film. One scene where Hedwig starts dancing to Kanye West, was so funny that it was almost easy to forget that this is a horror movie. Throughout the rest of the movie, Casey, her friends and Dr. Fletcher try to piece information together to find out how to survive amid Kevin and his multiple personalities.
At the end of the film, characters in a diner are discussing the incident that has occurred with Kevin. Someone likens Kevin to a man in a wheelchair and another man (Bruce Willis) tells the person that the wheelchair-bound man’s name is “Mr. Glass.” This a reference to M. Night Shyamalan’s film “Unbreakable” (2000), with Willis reprising his role as David Dunn, the protagonist. Shyamalan revealed that he originally planned to include the character of Kevin in “Unbreakable” but was ultimately unable to do it. When asked about a sequel to “Split,” Shyamalan responded, “I hope so. The answer is yes.”
Shyamalan would be remiss not to make a follow-up film: “Split” is a huge hit. Since its release on Jan. 20, the film has grossed $104 million dollars worldwide, 12 twelve times its $9 million budget. “Split” has also been number one at the box office for two weeks.
Although the film seems amazing, not all reception of it has been positive. The fact that it is a horror film with the plot revolving around a man with DID has led many to feel like the film stigmatizes mental health disorders.
“Films like this are going to reinforce a false stereotypical notion that people living with complex mental illnesses are inherently dangerous and violent,” said a representative from SANE, an Australian mental health charity.
Some audience members felt like Kevin’s transformation into “The Beast” was unrealistic and took away from the movie. “At first, the movie was realistic, but the end seemed like a science fiction movie,” said Yaneth Martinez ‘20, who saw the movie during its opening weekend.
Despite its issues with stigmatizing a mental illness, “Split” is a thrilling film. In addition to its original and unique plot, the film has amazing cinematography. The shots are innovative and add to the film’s suspense and eeriness. If you like films that cannot escape your thoughts and leave you wondering what you just watched, then you will certainly enjoy “Split.”