If you gave up on M. Night Shyamalan a long time ago, I don't blame you. After years of mehs and misses, he made an unexpected return to greatness with the (underrated) 2015 film The Visit, which has stuck with me after nearly two years. When I saw the trailer for Split, it was obvious that it was right up my creepy alley. Not only do I love a good horror film, but I've been fascinated with multiple personality disorder since I was a kid. That's normal, right?
Split is another worthy addition to the horror/thriller genre, and you can thank James McAvoy for most of that. His acting is well worth the watch, even when other aspects of the film fail.
Basic plot: three high school girls are kidnapped from a parking lot by Kevin (McAvoy), a man who possesses 23 (?) personalities, some of whom are more dangerous than others. His victims are Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, Edge of Seventeen), and Marcia (Jessica Sula, Honeytrap), although it comes to light that his one alter ego, Hedwig, was only following Claire and Marcia; Casey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could also say that she's the smartest of the three, or perhaps is lucky based on her bad lot in life. Because, believe it or not, good shit can come out of bad shit. Maybe. Depends. Either way, poor Casey, because her life is one that any normal human being would run away from on a daily basis. You can guess pretty early on that she's been sexually abused throughout her childhood. It's another example of films/TV using rape as a way to make female characters more "interesting" and to further a plot. Seriously, they always turn to rape, because women have to be made into victims, right? But that's a debate for another time.
While Casey is the abused outcast, Marcia and Claire are the opposite: pretty, popular, and nothing bad ever happens to them, therefore they deserve to die. According to several of Kevin's personalities, that is, all of whom are convinced that a 24th personality, The Beast, is on his way to eat all three girls. They're his sacrificial food. Why? Because he needs to eat people who have never suffered. Can you see where this is going? No? Yes you can. Two happy girls + one tortured girl=one of them isn't going to die. Yay for being...raped? I don't know how to feel about this, but I can't lie and say I didn't enjoy Casey's perseverance, nor the cat and mouse chase. I can't help but like Kevin and his various alter egos, even while rooting for Casey and the others to escape.
In order to explain The Beast, as well as Kevin and his disorder in general, it's crucial to mention that he had a terrible childhood, as well. I wish they had gone into further detail about what happened to him. All we really know is that his mother was brutal, but we're only allowed a glimpse. Honestly, I think that's a shame. Without question, he's the most interesting and enjoyable character, and James McAvoy killed it in this role. In comparison, we see way more of Casey's past, and the fact that her uncle has been raping her since she was very little.
The ending was simultaneously frustrating and appropriate: it's not a tidy ending, and real life doesn't have tidy endings, either. Casey is alive because The Beast saw her scars, which she's covered in. Realizing she has suffered, and therefore is equal to him, he lets her go. He was totally going to eat her alive otherwise. ALIVE. But...her rapist uncle is her guardian, and she has to go back to him. I don't know about you, but I wanted Beastie Boi to swoop in and eat that mofo, but no such luck. So we're left wondering what Casey's fate is. Personally, I felt that things would change. Maybe she would do something different aside from run away. Maybe Kevin inspired her, and she's going to kill her perpetual attacker. It's all up to your imagination, which is the frustrating part.
As for Kevin and company, they make it out alive, despite being shot by Casey. If you believe in The Beast, then he will come to be. And he's immortal. Screw shotguns! I don't think everyone will appreciate Kevin's survival, or the supernatural aspect to it. He's going to keep killing people in a horrific way, after all, but gosh darnit...I like the kid.
Overall, Split is a solid film with a few flaws. As I say with any decent horror film; if you're a fan of the genre, see this!
My grade: B+
P.S. Betty Buckley played Kevin's psychiatrist. She was in Carrie! I had no idea until recently, and she played another great character in this film.