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Split  : Comes Together To Shock & Scare
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Friday, February 24, 2017
M. Night Shyamalan
James McAvoy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson

Night Shyamalan returns with the claustrophobic atmosphere of basements and bunkers that provided the horror trope for films like Room and 10, Cloverfield Lane. Add to it Shyamalan’s specialty of mental quirks and you can sit on the edge of your seat and wonder what’s going to happen to three teenage girls who’re kidnapped by a highly disturbed Kevin. Or Dennis. Or Patricia. Or whatever you want to call someone with a disorder that has 23 personalities going in and out of him. Worse, there’s a 24th called The Beast that’s tougher, taller, beefier and meaner that’s lurking inside him, waiting to be unleashed.


Termed Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID, the unhinged hero does try to get psychiatric help when one of his more benign personalities has sessions with Dr Fletcher. That’s about the only time Shyamalan takes the camera out of the basement and into the sunlight until Dr Fletcher too, with complete cinematic license, strays inexplicably alone into her patient’s den.


Of the three kidnapped girls who look for ways to escape their lunatic captor, Casey is the only one who has a reference point. There are parallel scenes of abuse in her childhood just like Kevin who’s become what he has because of extreme abuse by his mother.


Childhood trauma and maniacal adulthood make for a scary thriller and Kevin, with his 23 other personalities coming in and out for a turn in the spotlight, puts the fear of ‘what next’ into his three captives.


I won’t spoil it by revealing what happens at the end but Shyamalan’s favourite actor Bruce Willis pops up unexpectedly. He stokes memories of Unbreakable, his last outing with the filmmaker, and leaves with an unspoken promise that they’ll be back.


That works well for Split, the film, as an ending though it does take the shine away from lead actor James McAvoy just a little bit. Playing myriad characters inside one body would be a joy for any actor and McAvoy revels in it with more changes in his body language than in actual costume. Anya Taylor-Joy with her wise, wide eyes, has several levels of fear and compromise to convey as Casey.


For a film that’ll delight Night Shyamalan fans as he’s back in peak form, Split gets a 3.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author

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