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by M. Night Shyamalan

Split is 2017’s M. Night Shyamalan film that perhaps we were all pretty nervous about seeing. The first reason I’d mention is that, typically, horror films in January just don’t tend to do well, and the second is that his movies are pretty 50/50. With last year’s The Visit receiving mixed reviews (personally I enjoyed it), it was a coin toss as to whether or not Split would continue Shyamalan’s recent positive trend in film.

Fellow reviewer PJ Griffin and I saw this recent release in theaters and decided to compare notes in order to deliver our readers an awesome collab review! Fair warning, if you haven’t seen Split, this review will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk. However, I must say, if I had known the “twist” before watching the film, I would have enjoyed it that much more. So, with that in mind, perhaps you should keep reading if you haven’t yet seen the film!

What PJ and I both could agree on was how phenomenal James McAvoy’s performance was. He took on this role and executed in a manner that I believe few people would have been able to pull off. Playing the parts of Dennis, Barry, Patricia, Hedwig, Kevin — the list goes on — he not only impressed PJ and I, but he presented characters that we could feel real sympathy for. The same can be said of Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the role of kidnapped teen Casey. She doesn’t overplay the victim card and instead showcases how someone who experienced trauma can evolve from it mentally and take on the survivor/thriver role.

Personally, I was not impressed with the other characters in this film. Aside from the small parts we see of the doctor, the other two kidnapping victims were unfortunate cardboard cutouts of characters that added nothing to the story except filler. Aside from being food for The Beast, I feel that we could have done without the other girls and Casey could have been the sole kidnapping victim. I don’t think it would have had any negative impact on the story, especially since Casey was given such a tragic back story. We know nothing of the other characters and to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less about them.

The atmosphere of the film is forever tense, and PJ especially notes how the beginning was so stark and chilling. The story builds in an interesting way that holds your interest, however, I would have preferred knowing how heavy some of the subject matter was going to be before watching the film as I found myself saddened and disgusted by the child abuse storylines and sometimes you just really don’t want to be sad when watching a horror movie, ya know?

In regard to the “twist,” and this is my opinion here, I truly felt that it should have been made known that Split was in the same universe as Unbreakable as part of the marketing for the film. Oh, I know, then how could there have been a twist, you might ask? Well, for starters, the fact that the multiple personalities were not a gimmick or a “disease” but rather the actual traits of a metahuman (think along the lines of Legion), that’s a twist in itself. The voices in Kevin’s head, by the end of the film known as The Horde, could be thought of as actual entities and separate consciences just sharing a body with Kevin. It’s been over a decade since Unbreakable and I for one was a bit too young to remember much of it when I last saw it, so I would have probably enjoyed a refresher and then gone on to watch Split with more of an open mind and left the theater a little less confused. Not to mention that we have an entire generation who doesn’t even know what the hell Unbreakable is and probably sat there wondering “why is Bruce Willis in that diner?”

The film is clearly not a standalone film and a lot of people could easily see a simple good vs evil plotline here, but it really is much more than that. What PJ points out as being done well is that the antagonist(s) is not a villain in the truest sense. Thankfully, by the third act we can see that it’s far more complicated than the one dimensional “good vs evil” and that it’s more complicated and intriguing. However, I just keep coming back to the fact that it’s hard to recognize the good in the third act without knowing what the hell Bruce Willis actually is doing in that diner.

Overall, PJ thinks Split is an impressive and refreshing experience that held our interest, and though it had its moments that were hard to follow, it more than made up for that with the acting talent and originality. I agree, especially once you know and have the opportunity to understand what you just watched. I went home after seeing it and immediately threw Unbreakable on and watched it. Doing so gave me a much deeper appreciation of Shyamalan’s latest release. We think perhaps he bit off a bit more than he could chew, throwing too many concepts in the pot at once and forgetting to stir the ingredients properly, but any real downside can be explained away by understanding this is, basically, a sequel to Unbreakable with new characters.

Fun fact: if you place the cover art for Split and Unbreakable in that order, side by side, they line up pretty spot on and it makes for an interesting theory that the “twist” was right there under our noses the entire time before the film even came out!

Stevie Kopas and P.J. Griffin, HMS

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