Tue | Feb 25, 2020

‘Split’ is half good and half bad

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy
James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy star in ‘Split’.
James McAvoy in 'Split'.

After you've been called the Spielberg of a new generation, it's hard not to fall below expectations. Still, M. Night Shyamalan fell pretty far.

Split aims to be a return to form for the once celebrated director. A genuinely interesting concept. It's about a killer who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. One body contains 23 distinct personalities, all played by Professor X himself, James MacAvoy.

That's what the movie promises, but really, you only meet about four or five, each of which MacAvoy plays with an enormous amount of giddiness. Truly, he seems to be having the time of his life. What more could you ask for as an actor. He gets to play with distinctly different characters, each with his own accent and mannerisms. No way does this film work without MacAvoy's charisma and skill.

The part that doesn't work is the film's science. The best horror movies tread this line carefully. It wants to tap into a kind of general fear that people have and to expound on it. Still, the film has to have some semblance of credibility. Otherwise, nothing resonates. It becomes so mired in fantasy that it's as scary as the big bad wolf.




That's what happens with Split. The third act takes a film that skirted the line carefully and knocks it over with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, so much so that scenes intended to frighten instead evoked jeers and jokes. It's impossible to take it seriously. That's only a problem because the movie doesn't seem to be in on its own joke.

Split insults its audience's intelligence by masking its stupidity as cleverness.

I did enjoy Split in its first two acts. The third act, while a departure from the movie it could've been, had an unintentional humour to it. I suppose that salvaged it for me. Still, I wish I could've seen a film of this subject matter taken a bit more seriously. It's not the '80s anymore. Movies should be smarter than this.