*This post contains an in-depth review of the new movie SPLIT. This post will contain specific references to mental disorders, suicide, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Proceed at your own risk.*
If you have been with me for any amount of time, you will know that movie reviews are not my niche. However, as of this weekend, a movie has made a box office splash that has rippled through the Mental Health community and I can’t keep silent.
Split, starring James McCavoy, is a horror/thriller film focused on a man named Barry. Actually, Barry is only an alias for one of his 24 personalities. His real name is Kevin Wendell Crumb, and he suffers from D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder); better known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
D.I.D. is characterized by one or more personality traits actively residing in an individual. Each personality has its own character, behavior, and beliefs. The most common symptom of said disease is a distinct awareness of being “detached from yourself.”
It’s a serious mental condition and one that Shyamalan decided to prey upon for his latest thriller.
In the movie, Crumb kidnaps three young girls and holds them captive. His reason for holding these three girls against their will is to satisfy his perverted desires and sacrifice them to an unknown “entity.” It’s a sinister plot and one that you would expect from Shyamalan.
Before I attempt to convince you to never lay eyes upon this film, let’s examine what Shyamalan got right with this new picture. *Major Spoilers Ahead*
What did they get right?:
Whoever was tasked with researching the genetic structure, personality traits, and symptoms of D.I.D. proved that they did their homework.
The disorder is presented and acted in a perfect way, as McCavoy bounces between each of his personality traits seamlessly. Even though only 8 of his 24 are shown onscreen, there is a point in the movie where all 8 are presented within a minute’s time. Let it be known that James McCavoy did an outstanding job of acting in this role. I was thoroughly impressed.
I was thankful that a movie about D.I.D. took the time to explain and share information about the disease. The director made sure that the audience knew the primary function, form, and purpose for these personalities existing. Each personality was created by Kevin in order to protect him from harm and to repress his memories of physical and sexual abuse as a child.
Another high note was the Psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley. Fletcher is portrayed as a sweet, elderly lady who specializes in the fields of D.I.D. and M.P.S.
The movie spends a considerable amount of time sharing valuable bits of information about the disease from her perspective. She is seen counseling Barry, one of Kevin’s personalities, and comes across as genuine, concerned, and active. She advocates for sufferers and makes herself available to help them as they need.
Overall, the disorder is well represented; that is until Shyamalan decides to take it too far.
What did they get wrong?
Each personality exists to serve a singular purpose: Protect and shield Kevin from any more traumatic experiences. Each individual living inside of Kevin’s brain represents a piece of what he lost as a child and each individual plays a specific role.
Of the 8 shown on screen, Dennis and Patricia are the two sinister personalities. They serve to protect Kevin through anger, violence, and revenge. It is no surprise that these two are involved with the kidnapping of the three girls. They also prey on the other personalities by declaring the introduction of a 24th personality, named “The Beast.”
Not much is known about “The Beast” until he reveals himself in the film’s final minutes. “The Beast” is a superhuman of sorts. He possesses super strength, the ability to climb walls with nothing but his bare hands, and is impenetrable.
“The Beast” is also a cannibal.
Yes, a cannibal. It should not come as a shock to you to find out that the three girls are a sacrifice to the beast. The movie often refers to the eating of these girls as a “celebration” and “ceremony” while directly calling them “sacred food.”
The purpose of “The Beast” is to cleanse humankind of those who have not suffered, meaning everyone who hasn’t been “defiled” through physical/sexual abuse.
Throughout the movie, while “the Beast” is being alluded to, the backstory for one of the girls, Casey, is being given. Casey constantly flashbacks to a hunting trip in which her father and Uncle teach her how to shoot an animal.
As the flashbacks progress, it becomes increasingly clear that something is “off.” Shortly before the film’s climactic act, it is revealed that Casey’s Uncle actively molested her as a child, and still does.
What’s worse is that the movie implicates such debauchery by showing the Uncle, stripped half-naked, on all fours threatening Casey, who is only 5, to take off her clothes. I’m not sure what happened with the rest of the scene, as I had effectively shut my eyes and was restraining from vomiting.
This horrific abuse, ironically, is what saves Casey in the end. During the climax of the movie, Casey is on the run from “the Beast.” He had snapped Dr. Fletcher in half and had begun consuming the two girls (which the director aptly displays) when he realizes Casey had escaped.
This realization prompts an intense few moments of film. Casey finds a note that Dr. Fletcher left. It read, “Say his name…Kevin Wendell Crumb.”
When “the Beast” finds her, she tries with all of her might to say his name, and it works. Kevin’s true personality steps into the light, presumably for the first time in 3 years. Upon hearing of the evil acts he had done, he tells Casey to pull the shotgun out of the closet and kill him.
The other personalities begin vying for control trying to keep Casey from going through with Kevin’s request. “The Beast” resumes control of Kevin’s mind and begins his descent upon Casey.
Amidst the scuffle, Casey’s shirt is torn, revealing a myriad of scars that look like she had been cut, clawed, and forcibly abused.
This is the point in which “the Beast” realizes that she is “unclean” and lets her live. Shortly after, a janitor finds Casey, bloody and alone, and calls the cops. As they say, the rest is history and the movie tied its loose ends.
Stepping into the movie theater, I knew that I was going to see a horror/thriller movie, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, which portrayed a Mentally Ill man as an abductor and murderer. What I didn’t know was how far the director would go to bring horror to life.
The question must be asked: To what lengths will a director go to put “butt’s in the seat?”
I’m an avid film lover and I appreciate the art of a horror film. Each horror movie is directed with fantasy in mind, but with just enough of a touch of reality to make you wonder. Shyamalan foregoes this equation and slaps the audience in the face with cold, hard reality.
To put it bluntly: Shyamalan directed a movie that portrays all sufferers of D.I.D. as perverted, insane, unstable, cannibalistic murderers.
Not only did he demonize an entire sect of Mentally Ill individuals, he dragged anyone who has a past with sexual/physical abuse through a “trigger” minefield.
I have never left a movie theater feeling as physically ill and emotionally wrecked as I did this past weekend. The raw emotion bleeding off of the screen was soaked in very little fantasy and a whole lot of reality.
The only reason this movie constitutes as a horror film is because the contents lying within are truly horrific. There is no resolution. There is no happy ending. Actually, the film’s ending sets up a sequel.
Films such as this, that actively demonize an illness already fighting for the understanding of our culture, only create larger messes. Shyamalan had zero intent of shedding light on a terrible disease, rather he was more focused on rejuvenating his directing career.
For activists such as myself and others, we now have more of a mess on our hands to clean up. Thank you, director. You’ve shown us your true colors.
Please, do yourself a favor and do NOT see this movie. I won’t judge you if you do, but I won’t refrain from telling you I told you so.
What do you think? Did you see it? What’s your opinion? Let me know in the comments below!
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