Split squanders an excellent cast on a terrible script that is as offensive as it is stupid and tasteless.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Summary: After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities, they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away from the others and staying alive.
We have had the honor of watching a great filmmaker completely flame out over the last decade or so. M. Night Shyamalan took an extremely promising career and in less than three movies become one of the biggest laughing stocks in Hollywood. While there was once anticipation for his movies, they now elicit groans from his audience. The only reason to see any of his movies is to see what kind of 'crazy twist' he's going to come up with next.
In the next few days, there are going to be people who will try to tell you the twist at the end of Split is worth it; it isn't. Do not listen to those people. If this movie was just normal, bad and boring it would be one thing but Split takes it to a whole new level of terrible.
One of the things that makes good horror good is making your audience feel tense and maybe a little uncomfortable. That appears to be what Split was going for, but it sails right over that line and beyond. If this movie just made the apparent sexual assault of these three girls the stopping point, it would still be disgusting. But sexual assault becomes the entire plot of the movie.
James McAvoy knows how to barge into a room and own every inch of it, but the various personalities are just the same personalities we get in every movie that tries to deal with some sort of mental illness. There's the calm and dangerous one, the older and stern woman, the one that thinks he's nine years old but apparently still has a sex drive, and the one that will lead to the big reveal at the end.
When Split isn't making light of sexual assault and turning it into a plot point, it's pushing a stigma against mental illness. There are people who ask McAvoy's character–too many names to try and name just one–'how she deals with these crazy people'. This is the reason that people are afraid to ask for help; it means someone thinks you're a crazy person who is going to turn around and attack someone because the voices told them to do so. There are enough problems with the mental health system, and dealing with mental illness on a daily basis, that we do not need another movie telling the public that we are to be feared. We are people, not monsters, and the fact that Hollywood continues to rely on mental illness as a way to hand-wave the actions of their villains needs to stop. This is the second movie in a row in which Shyamalan has made the primary antagonists mentally ill.
Split is a movie that should not exist, and once the spoiler for the big twist is revealed it becomes blatantly apparent why it does. Shyamalan is done; he was done halfway through Signs, and now he's desperately trying to claw his way back with what he thinks audiences want. How this man continues to get funding is the real mystery. What a twist.