Writer & Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis.
If you don’t like to read spoilers, you really won’t like reading this post. I am incapable of writing a review of this film without discussing the ending, which I will do in a matter of a few sentences, so readers be warned.
Part of being in a relationship is compromise. I tend to have strong opinions (hence a blog where I can scream my thoughts into the void as a way to exorcise my praises and gripes to no one and everyone). I cannot for the life of me stomach certain kinds of films, and my boyfriend knows this and respects that. But I also know that he likes a glossy so bad it’s good horror film or psychological thriller from time to time, so even if it is a movie that I would otherwise not watch, I do it for love, even if I don’t like it very much. He puts up with all my weird art house and foreign films, it’s the least I can do. Ultimately we both have veto power if we really don’t think we can stomach the film, but we only use it when we feel particularly strongly about something. I went into Split with caution and a severe amount of reservations. M. Night Shyamalan has made only two watchable movies in my opinion. The first, The Sixth Sense, was watchable because it was a somewhat new sort of film that broke some ground, I must admit to that much. The second was watchable in spite of the director. The Village had a remarkable cast who acted the hell out of their roles, and while the premise and story were oh so stupid, anything William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Celia Weston, et al. are in is bound to be a tour de force of acting, in spite of a dumb story. As for the rest of Shyamlan’s “oeuvre”? The ones I saw were horrific (Unbreakable, Signs, The Happening, The Lady in the Water, The Visit), and the ones I didn’t were so universally hated and derided that I’m glad I stayed away (Wide Awake, The Last Airbender, After Earth). I had very low expectations for Split, and yet it still managed to not meet them, and on top of it all the film really pissed me off!
The premise is exploitation horror cinema at its finest. Three teenage girls are kidnapped and caged in a dungeon by a madman. The crazy guy, surprise surprise, is suffering of a mental disorder, so he is unstable and unpredictable. One of the girls is savvy and street smart (she gets to be the final girl, to nobody’s surprise), while the other two are superficial, bratty, and unlikable (nobody cares when they ultimately die). The final girl escapes the same horrific ending because she’s a survivor of sexual assault and molestation, probably like the bad guy, so he lets her go because he recognizes her pain and his as the same. Said guy? He becomes superhuman out of the blue. Why? Because I got roped into watching a fucking sequel to Unbreakable, because Shyamalan sucks and hates us all and the stupid twist is that Bruce Willis shows up at the end as David Dunn.
It’s no surprise that James McAvoy took the part of the crazy dude with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), in fact it makes sense. Getting to play a role like this is a perfect opportunity for an actor to showcase a range and variety of roles in one single movie. It’s basically a demo reel of his abilities, the kind of film that if acted well, even if it sucks, will guarantee him many roles for years to come. He satisfies this requirement. He acts well and single handedly carries the entirety of the film (there is not one single standout in the cast aside from him). The vain director, though, cannot help himself and writes a cameo for himself in the film, so not only are we subjected to his horrific directorial and screenwriting monstrosities, but we must stomach a scene in which he appears as well. I disliked the way that sexual abuse was handled, it is merely a plot device and a simple way to explain things. There is zero tact or effort to treat it with importance, and that is a crime unto itself. The connection that mental disorders are inherently tied to violence and horrific behavior is troubling as well, but Shyamalan is not alone in propagating this philosophy, so I will spare him that attack. The fact that DID can result in someone becoming a supernatural monster with superhuman abilities is as laughable as it is ridiculous.
Look, the movie is not horrible and while unrealistic in the wrong kind of ways, it is a perfectly acceptable C level horror film with basically no carnage or blood (it is rated PG-13 after all). I am simply and horribly angry and shaken that I was tricked into watching a sequel. I hate them, they are tired and lazy and the worst expression of our cinematic abilities as a species. There is nothing good that comes out of them and this is proof. Shyamalan had no idea how to end this movie, how to conclude it, so he simply chose not to. He tied it into a “universe” he had previously failed at making interesting, appealing, or engaging, and then promised a third film that will converge the two world. That film will be called Glass. I know as a fact that I will not be watching. I don’t really care if anyone else will either. And Shyamalan’s career? I am officially done with that as well.