After Signs, Shyalaman’s career took a hit. Critics were brutal and try as he might, his films were not grabbing fans. It was not until 2015’s Visit that he seemed to be picking up some steam.
In Split, we meet Casey and her friends who are abducted by a frightening man named Kevin. It is quickly revealed that Kevin has a personality disorder with 23 known personalities. His psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, is working to try and help Kevin become dominant. But he has kidnapped the young girls for nefarious purposes. He is not a sexual deviant though. His personalities are preparing the way for a new and frightening personality…the Beast…and the girls are innocents that he demands as a sacrifice.
Like the Visit, Split received criticism for its treatment of mental health. And this is a big part of the plot. Due to the portrayal of the Beast, a super-human monster, I felt that the film narrowly avoided this being the notion that he was fractured. These were unique and individual people. However, I realize that some will disagree with this read…and I am inclined to in the light of Glass, but I will address this in the Glass review.
Split hinges almost entirely on McAvoy’s performance. He can be ominous, terrifying and yet sweet and kind…sometimes all in the same scene. A good actor should be able to pull this off anyways, but still, McAvoy does it well.
This felt like a return to form, with a small but perfect twist at the end. Split is one of the strongest films Shyalaman has made since probably Signs.