Review: Split's depiction of mental health is questionable but film has strengths

James McAvoy in Split
James McAvoy in Split
1
Have your say

Matt Adcock reviews Split (15), starring James McAvoy

“He's done awful things to people and he'll do awful things to you…” No, not director M Night ‘Sixth Sense’ Shyamalan – although his recent cinematic output has been pretty painful - but rather this quote refers to Kevin Wendell Crumb (James ‘Filth’ McAvoy). Kevin, you see, isn’t the only person in his body as he suffers from dissociative identity disorder meaning that there are effectively 23 people time-sharing him. Some of his personalities are borderline ‘normal’ but many are not.

When three girls are kidnapped by Kevin in his creepy bookish Dennis personality, they get to meet a range of alter-egos who include uptight English sounding Patricia, Kanye-loving child Hedwig and a host of others. Worse of all, while Dennis isn’t ‘allowed’ to hurt the girls, there is a secret 24th personality deemed only “The Beast” who certainly wants t

The captives, Casey (Anya ‘The VVitch’ Taylor-Joy), Marcia (Jessica ‘Honeytrap’ Sula) and Clare (Haley Lu ‘Edge of Seventeen’ Richardson). are good as a bunch of friends making mostly dumb decisions whilst facing a nightmare situation. But McAvoy is on fire here fully throwing himself into the role and delivering a truly mesmerising and engrossing horror baddie as a result.

Split certainly won’t win any awards for its depiction of mental illness as anything other than a killer plot twist / X-Men like mutation freak-em-up but if you can get over the seriously non-PC premise there is a hair-raising thriller on offer here that will get inside your head and mess with it. For fans of films such as Michael Mann’s Manhunter or De Palma’s Raising Cain, Split is a must-see nail-biter. The tension ramps up as the hostages make increasingly desperate attempts to reason with at least one of the personalities holding them.

Shyamalan has always had a great affinity with his bad guys – and with Kevin Crumb he gets so show the different facets of a monster by literally displaying its many faces. This is the closest of his films to the excellent Unbreakable and could even exist in the same Shyamalan universe.

Not for the faint of heart or those campaigning for people with multiple personalities to be taken seriously, Split will very likely, erm, ‘split’ audiences as you will need to seriously suspend your disbelief to allow this masterful horror hokum to fully engage.