MOVIE REVIEW: SPLIT A look at M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller about a shattered mind

In Media, Reviews by Ismael Miranda

Synopsis: A trio of teenage girls are taken hostage from a high school birthday party, who wake up in a small bunker-like cell, unaware of the fate that awaits them. They must fight to survive as they deal with their abductor (James McAvoy). While Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) panic after waking up in their dire situation, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) remains unusually calm. Led by Casey, the girls work to escape from their capturer as they attempt to understand his deep seeded issues and a horde of people all trapped within his mind.

Review: The concept of someone’s mind fracturing and developing personas that all share one body and alternate control is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. This is a premise that while captivating can be difficult to truly understand.

This disorder is the core of the film’s narrative as Kevin, played by McAvoy, abducts three teens for reasons that the girls and the audience are left to figure out. The film opens with a sequence in which three teenage girls are rendered unconscious and whisked to an unknown location. This scene, as well as many others, are handled with a calculated dexterity that leads to a chilling effect.

Kevin suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the girls learn this quickly as his various alters interact with them. Some of which include, an obsessive-compulsive man with control issues, a mild-mannered caretaker, a conflicted fashion designer, and a witty and excitable nine-year-old, among others.

Night Shyamalan’s Split is a surprise at the very least and a step back into the director’s better work. Both audiences and critics have been enthusiastic about the film. One of the biggest successes is the light shed on DID. While it is evident that the disorder clearly received the silver screen editing to make it compelling and interesting to best serve the needs of the narrative; it does showcase truths dealing with the nature of DID.

DID is a mental disorder that is difficult to understand and while now is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is still something even most professionals in psychology have trouble dealing with and understanding. Let alone the three young ladies trapped by someone in the grips of the disorder.

In true Shyamalan fashion, a man dealing with his mental health issues and committing crimes is not all there is to this story and the journey to discover this is an interesting one. Horror films exploit something, things that when examined closely make us uneasy. This film explores how trauma can shape and change someone. How humans are malleable and capable of more than we currently understand.

Rest assured, there are plenty of proper twists to follow. As the film unfolds, we learn and see more of McAvoy’s character(s) while gradually be shown the young woman’s troubled past via flashbacks to childhood hunting trips. As per usual, Shyamalan’s goal is to keep us guessing, and in that respect, “Split” succeeds. If psychological horror and the machinations of trauma are things that interest you, this film is an experience.