Well, it looks like Shyamy is at it again, this time with a psychological horror dealing with the unknowns of our human minds. In Split, a man named Kevin, or Barry (who knows, he has 23 different personalities), calmly abducts three girls and holds them in a room; his intentions? To feed them to The Beast. Not only does this film deal with the psychological damage that traumatic experiences can inflict, it deals with human perception of mental illness. My girlfriend and I saw Split the other night on Bell Let’s Talk Day, which I found incredibly fitting because of the films subject matter.
Throughout the film James McAvoy (Kevin/Barry/etc.) puts on a stellar, awards worthy, performance as he switches back and forth between the different personalities that share Kevin’s body. McAvoy truly is the star of this film, but, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) also puts in a solid performance as one of the abductees. However, her experience is different from her friends. She understands McAvoy’s character because she has also been through traumatic experiences. Although there are two other characters, her friends Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), they are quickly split up after having acted out against Barry (his psychologist mostly calls him Barry). Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) is an important piece to Barry’s condition, as she studies him and tries to help him, she also wants to unlock the mysteries of the brain and believes Barry is the key.
M. Night has really done it again. His previous film, The Visit (2015), was a perfect instalment into the found footage genre and its twist still gives me chills to this day. In Split, however, Shyamalan doesn’t depend on a twist. He lets the story speak for itself, and allows the actors performances to give the range and dynamic he was looking for. This film is all about the performance, and it really works in that sense. On the technical side, it’s kind of a basic looking film, the sets are nice though. However, I believe Shyamalan has gone digital because his last two films have had this glossy kind of colour correction. Don’t get me wrong, it works for the film because it isn’t this grand cinematic spectacle. But I wonder why he chose to go this route for his last two films, maybe it was the smaller budgets? The film is more about the performance and location. Speaking of which, the place he keeps the girls in is truly from a nightmare. There are a few shots on the cinematographic side that really stood out to me; one point McAvoy is walking up a stair case, and the way the camera is positioned (looking down from above the stairs) really gives it a twisted vibe, I think it adds to the mental aspect of the film.
So far, M. Night Shyamalan has succeeded twice in his return to glory, and soon he’ll create perfection. But for now, Split is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve seen in a long while. I give it a solid 8/10.
- Sushami Pomerleau-Piquette