“Split:” a fascinating but flawed psycho-horror flick

By IAN LACK Reporter

Editor’s Note: The grading system used here is similar to the 10-point scale used in SDSU courses.


While “Split” delves deep into the psyches of its wonderfully-written characters and explores some interesting psychology, the film ultimately falls flat due to a lack of scares, a messy plot and a disappointing ending.

The film opens abruptly with Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), a socially-awkward teenage girl, being abducted with her two friends in a parking lot. They wake up to find themselves in a locked underground room.’

The girls quickly come to understand that their captor, Kevin (James McAvoy), isn’t just a sinister man with simple intentions.

Kevin has Dissociative Identity Disorder, a mental disorder that allows for more than one personality within a person. In Kevin’s case, 23 personalities grapple for control over his mind.

Three of Kevin’s personalities take control of his mind and kidnap the three girls in hopes of feeding them to Kevin’s newest 24th personality, an all-knowing creature simply known as “The Beast.”

While Casey and her friends struggle to escape their underground labyrinth, Kevin’s psychiatrist, struggles to uncover what dark forces are at play in Kevin’s mind.

Surprisingly, the film explores Kevin’s psychology with sensitivity. It’s made clear that Kevin is an empathetic individual who’s just fallen victim to extreme circumstances.

The film also takes a great look at Casey and the toll abuse can have on people within a setting of such extremes. Both lead performances are exceptional and extremely nuanced.

Unfortunately, this in-depth look at the psychology of the abductor and the abductee is done second to providing a cohesive plot line and effective scares – what this film was advertised for.

***Plot spoilers ahead***

M. Night Shyamalan’s signature twist ending in this film is that it actually takes place within the world of Shyamalan’s 2000 thriller, “Unbreakable.”

As it turns out, this film is meant to be a supervillain origin story for a character that will eventually face off against Bruce Willis’s “Unbreakable” character, David Dunn, according to Shyamalan. 

By the end of the film, Bruce Willis arrives for a surprise appearance and makes a reference to the 17-year-old film in a scene that is more confusing than thought-provoking.

Those in the audience who had not seen “Unbreakable,” including myself, were left completely in the dark of the reference that Willis’ character makes and the scene only served to muddle the narrative of “Split.”

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a film to serve as a distraction from daily life, “Split” offers more than enough to keep a mind busy – just don’t expect the scariest or most thought-out horror flick.


Ian Lack is a visual editor at The Collegian and can be reached at [email protected]