Split - Movie Review & Rant (Not spoiler free)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

poster for Split (2016)

Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th. (IMDB)

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
Released: January 20, 2017
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

When I heard that M. Night Shyamalan was going to be releasing a new movie I got excited. When I found out that the film was going to have a main character with Disassociative Identity Disorder, that excitement immediately disappeared, especially after I discovered that this character was going to be the villain. Before I go into a long rant about the DID aspects of the film though, let me just quickly go over the basics. The acting done by pretty much all of the women was good but the acting done by McAvoy was not. His tendency to overact is on full display and makes his character even less believable (I will go into more details about this a bit later). The cinematography and directing are mostly good, but there are scenes where you see shadows in places that they really shouldn't be. This was either a creative choice meant to add to the ominous feeling of the movie that did not work out very well or someone behind the camera was unaware of how shadows work, which makes it look sloppy. Speaking of the ominous feeling, the score was done wonderfully and is probably the best thing about this film. I also liked how parts of Casey's past kept being shown as both a way to explain her strange survival skills and a sort of comparison of how people deal with similar trauma. When the film began and she was just sitting in the car before the other girls noticed anything wrong, I was so angry that she just kept quiet and did not do anything. However, finding out that she had a history of being abused made her reactions more understandable.

If  McAvoy's character was just a serial killer who abducted girls and there was nothing about DID in the story or I had no knowledge of the disorder at all, it would be an almost okay film. However, the inclusion of this mental disorder that is surrounded by so much controversy and misinformation turns it into absolute trash. The way this movie portrays not only DID but mental illness, in general, is completely wrong and even dangerous for those dealing with these issues.

The child or childlike, the opposite sex, the controller, and the monster. From movies like Split to television shows like Criminal Minds, these are go-to alters whenever they have a character with Disassociative Identity Disorder. The child is innocent or stupid, the opposite sex is portrayed in the most stereotypical way possible, the controller usually has OCD and of course, the monster has to be the most repulsive and violent creature ever. Copy and paste this to your crime or horror story and you can spend more time enjoying the money you have earned instead of actually taking the time to write something new and creative or dare I say, accurate? No thought is given to how these negative portrayals of the disorder will impact those who are really dealing with it and no thought is given to how films like Split increase the stigma towards those with any mental illness. The bigger the stigma, the less likely someone is going to be able to get help (due to embarrassment, denial, or lack of knowledge and/or resources).

Are you fucking kidding me?
Don't get me wrong, I am all for believable characters that are suffering from mental illnesses in stories, but the keyword here is BELIEVABLE. It is not something pretty that should be glamorized and it is not something that should only be dealt with in the horror or crime genres. Yes, I realize that there are several very good movies that do this, but that is kind of my point. It can be done and it can be successful. It can lead to progress and understanding instead of harm. That is why I find myself so angered to see writers and directors being so lazy because, let's be honest, when they create stories like Split, that is exactly what they are doing.

More Information that probably makes more sense:
5 Reasons You Should Boycott M. Night Shyamalan's Split
Split is the latest horror film to misunderstand why mental illness is terrifying
Movie ‘Split’ Does Harm to People with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Experts Say
Media’s Damaging Depictions of Mental Illness
Dissociative Identity Disorder (Information)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆2/10