This is the fourth time I’ve tried writing this fucking review. Both previous attempts have just devolved into an impassioned rant about how M. Night Shyamalan can go fuck himself with the fury of a million fists… Sorry, I need to calm down. Split is the latest from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. Look, if you’ve seen anything else from Shyamalan, you should know what to expect with this; there’s weird, unnaturally stiff acting from our leads, an interesting story that is ultimately made silly by fake science, and characters that do things no real human being on Earth would do. Also, you know there’s probably going to be a twist. Shyamalan is the filmmaking equivalent of Limp Bizkit; in the late 90’s and early 2000’s he was someone the mainstream actually respected. We look back at his work and all of the things we used to praise him for now make us cringe. It’s fun to think back to a time where we gave Fred Durst and his band actual “prestigious” music awards just like it’s fun to think back to a time where Newsweek proudly proclaimed Shyamalan as the next Steven Spielberg.
I’m feeling like I just have get this out of the way; Split features an utterly pointless scene heavily implying the incestuous rape of a five-year old. I’m no prude, I’ve seen my fair share of graphic content; go and watch any Game of Thrones episode and you’re very likely to see something vile and unsettling. I’ve watched films that have dealt with incest before too; Angel Heart and Oldboy are two films that spring to mind. I can handle the goriest of gory, I can handle the most graphic of rape scenes, and I can tolerate films that touch upon the completely taboo…but the way this scene was shot crosses so many lines that those involved should be ashamed of themselves.
Let me breakdown the scene for you; our main character, Cassie (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) has flashbacks to a hunting trip throughout the movie. During one of the flashbacks, her Uncle (played by Brad William Henke) pleads with young Cassie, (played by Izzie Coffey) to take off her clothes and play a game called “Animals” with him. He states that they’ve done it plenty of times before, and she likes it. He gets on all fours, dressed down to just his underwear, and he starts grunting in a sexual manner. Fuck this movie, and fuck M. Night Shyamalan. This scene goes beyond levels of creepy and unsettling, and straight into fetishizing child rape. I’ve never wanted to walk out of any movie more so in my life.
The worst part is, this repulsive scene is almost completely unnecessary. It has very little impact on the plot and characters. Okay, I’ll ease up on my outrage and I’ll try to give a rundown of the rest of the movie; James McAvoy plays a character with Dissociative identity disorder; he has 24 different personalities, all of them vying for various degrees of control, but you only encounter four or five of them. Why doesn’t he have just four or five? I honestly don’t know; it seems extremely wasteful not to take advantage of the other 20. Anyway, McAvoy’s character abducts three teenage girls who are all bland. They all lack any defining characteristics with the exception of the aforementioned Cassie, who, through an exposition dump, we find out is antisocial. McAvoy’s cavalcade of personalities wants to prepare the girls for the coming of The Beast; a never before unleashed personality the other personalities speak about ominously. As much as I would love to just spoil the shit out of this in a selfless act with the intention of mercifully saving you the time and money you’ll never get back from this bullshit movie, I’m not going to spoil anymore. Is there a twist ending? Sure, there’s a 30 second post credit scene that admittedly gives the audience a crowd pleasing twist that will (probably) payoff sometime in the future, but as for twists in the actual movie? No, not really. It has a flimsy premise, and it’s chock-full of the usual M. Night Shyamalan movie staples; stiff and unnatural acting, distracting M. Night Shyamalan cameo (I rolled my eyes for the two consecutive minutes that he appeared on screen for), silly pseudo scientific explanations that make no sense if you think about it for more than a few seconds, and of course a ton of ham-fisted symbolism that will only make sense to the very delusional Shyamalan. Never forget that Shyamalan is a the kind of person who wants us to constantly think about how deep and ingenious he is just like we used to back in 1999.
Without that creepy rape scene, this movie would be barely passable. It’s what you expect from the filmmaker behind The Happening and The Village; the strengths lie in the premise and the scenery, not the characters or the execution of said premise. M. Night Shyamalan isn’t content with just bringing us a passable movie, he has to tack on a disgusting incestuous and pedophilic subplot that has no satisfying payoff, and thusly leads me to believe that there is no other reason for it existing aside from M. Night Shyamalan getting off on depicting the victimization of a five-year old child. Maybe I’m just too squeamish, and it won’t rattle other people like it rattled me; whatever. You can’t argue that there were a billion better ways to make his points and tell his story, ones that don’t involve a grown man on all fours grunting like an animal.
Split (2017) Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan. Written by: M. Night Shyamalan. Starring: James McAvoy, Betty Buckley, Brad William Henke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula
1 out of 10