Split Review

Lina Al Taii, Lina Osman, and Amy Han


Split, a film which addresses mental health issues in a way that is realistic yet also thrilling. Released on Jan. 20 2017, this film attracted a wide audience due to the trailer being publicized on social media platforms such as twitter. Director M. Night Shyamalan uses split personality disorder, a clever protagonist who thoroughly calculates her moves, and small distinct details to create a film which hints at just the right balance between thriller, suspense, and horror.

Casey, a quick-witted and clever hero figure, is introduced as the shy girl who was invited to the birthday party out of pity. However, as soon as the abduction begins, M. Shyamalan highlights her thoughtful and constructive actions with small details. When Kevin, the kidnapper, enters the car and knocks out her two friends, Casey stays calm and carefully tries to open the car door. This use of realistic reaction breaks the common stereotype used in suspense or horror films, where the hero figure has a tendency to make an action that the audience automatically disagrees with. Some examples of this stereotypical tendency are the horror movie characters who go to investigate the weird noises when they are alone, without getting help first, the characters who hide in the most obvious spot, or the group of friends who decide to split up “to investigate” when something scary happens. In Split, however, Director M. Night Shyamalan immediately casts our hero, Casey, as an intelligent and resourceful hero. This is also shown in another instance in the beginning of their abduction, when Casey notices that Denis is a germophobe, and subsequently tells her friend to pee herself so that he wouldn’t touch her. This broken stereotype is emphasized by M. Shyamalan’s use of flashbacks to provide context for Casey’s individuality from the other girls. Casey is shown as a child when her parents passed away and she was taken in by her questionable uncle who is vaguely portrayed as a negative figure. This skillful use of a negative figure leads us to deduce that Casey is somehow wiser and more experienced with approaching difficult people. Casey is overall shown as a rational and logical hero, and this makes the audience feel more comfortable towards her actions.

The introduction of a sensible hero in a horror film resulted in a positive reaction from the audience. During most horror films, the typical hero figure makes bad decisions, which cause the audience to become agitated, sitting at the edge of their seats. However, Casey makes decisions that help the situation. For example, Casey remains calm and considers her options even though the two other girls were trying to pressure her into “fighting” the abductor. This makes the audience feel at ease, and put their trust in the hero. Casey’s wise decisions made the film less of a horror but rather a thriller.

Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960) includes a man, Norman Bates with 2 personalities. As time evolves, M. Night Shyamalan has created a man Kevin Well Crumb to have 23 different personalities. Dr. Fletcher in Split theorizes that these different personalities generate different DNA and alter the mind through each personality. Dr. Fletcher’s theory hinders to the plot that patients with split personality disorder are capable of supernatural elements. While watching Split (2017), the audience can connect the movie to other films. M. Shyamalan alludes to The Village, one of his previous films, about a community settling disputes over strange creatures seen in the town. A second film that contributes to Split is revealed at the end of the movie, and may have the viewer seeking for answers, if they have not watched the movie being referenced to. Viewers that are not familiar with M. Shyamalan’s work may find themselves searching on google for “Split the ending explained.” Shyamalan also uses distinct details to foreshadow events. There are multiple symbolic shots in the film that lead up to the climax of the film. When the viewers finally watch the end of the movie, they will look back at all the scenes that foreshadowed this ending and understand them fully.

Split (2017) is a more suspenseful film than it is a horror film. The horror genre is classified by invoking the most frightening sense of emotion from the viewer. Though Split does invoke a sense of fear, that makes the viewer frightened for the girls being kidnapped, the thriller attribute of the movie remains stronger because Shyamalan’s characters act logically and reasonably. Shyamalan satisfies the viewer by adding realistic and thoughtful perspective to the hazardous choices the entrapped girls can make. The protagonist, Casey, has an arduous background that the audience follows throughout the movie. Casey’s background puzzles together in order to lead to the perplexing denouement. Four of the 23 personalities that predominantly control Kevin Well crumb are Dennis, the OCD freak, Hedwig, the nine year old character who is a figure of comic relief, Barry, the parent-figure fashionista, and bossy Patricia. Go out to watch split directed by M. Shyamalan with your go-to movie peeps to unmask the symbols and allusions or to chuckle over some of the comedic personalities and overcome your fear of horror movies, one thriller at a time.