term “multiple personality” is out of fashion. Psychiatrists like Dr. Karen
Fletcher prefer Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and they really hate
horror films that exploit it. Considering her star patient just kidnapped three
teenage girls, she really doesn’t have much grounds to complain. Things had been
running pretty smoothly inside the body of the man born Kevin Wendell Crumb as
long as Barry controlled each personalities’ access to “the light,” but the bad
kids have taken over in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (trailer
here), which opens today in a theater near you.
would be the compulsively tidy, sociopathic one and Patricia is his sinister
compatriot. They were not supposed to come out anymore, but they won over
Hedwig, the bratty pre-teen, who has the power to subvert Barry’s authority. Dennis
is now calling the shots, but he plans to give way to an apocalyptic
is really bad luck that Casey Cook was abducted. Claire Benoit only invited the
troubled gothy girl to her birthday celebration out of reluctant obligation.
When Dennis snatches her up along with Benoit and her BFF Marcia, Cook better
realizes the precariousness of their position. To survive, they will have to
win over one of Crumb’s other personalities—perhaps the one that keeps sending
late night cry-for-help emails to Dr. Fletcher, who might just be the least
intuitive headshrinker in movie history.
her slow uptake, the best passages in Spit
feature her verbally probing Dennis pretending to be Barry. There’s
definitely some good war-of-wits-and-words stuff going on. On the other hand,
the flashbacks explaining Cook’s family issues are predictable and clumsy. The
cat-and-mouse game Cook plays with the twenty-three personalities falls
somewhere in between. By now, most of us horror fans are weary of watching a
psycho holding women victims in his dungeon, but Shyamalan gives the
problematic convention a few fresh spins.
the days of Shyamalan’s big phony twist tent-pole movies are long gone and good
riddance. If he sticks with Blumhouse, he can make a mint and build up a hip
cult following by crafting sinister (so to speak) little genre thrillers. In
all honesty, the world can use honest exploitation fair far more than the
ponderous pretension of The Happening.
McAvoy is a pretty game as the many faces of Kevin, preening about quite
menacingly. Dr. Fletcher’s diagnoses and methods might be questionable, but
Betty Buckley is really terrific as the controversial DID expert. Watching her
analyze and spar with McAvoy is great fun. On the other hand, up-and-coming
stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula are pretty
standard horror movie victims and a rather dreary final girl.
to be spoilery, but Shyamalan finds an inspired way to tie the events of Split into the universe of his circa
2000 greatest hits. Arguably, he makes the film right there and then. He also
takes a Hitchcockian cameo, but it seems like an endearing eccentricity once
the excesses of prior films are stripped away. Creepy and grungy (in the right way),
Split should keep the Shyamalan comeback
train chugging along. Recommended for fans of psycho and psychological
thrillers, Split opens in theaters
today (1/20), including the AMC Empire in New York.
Labels: Betty Buckley, Blumhouse, M. Night Shyamalan, Split personalities