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Split (2016)

June 22nd, 2017 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

Holy Toledo, I dug me some SPLIT. And I’ve been suffering a miserable movie track record lately! I found ALIEN: COVENANT to be a profound disappointment, I thought the abysmally titled RINGS was an atrocious snooze-fest and IT COMES AT NIGHT though undeniably impressive, made me want to hang myself. SPLIT is a good time! It’s got what I call “Joie de horreur.” I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and it’s so genuinely entertaining that it’s easy to forgive whatever little (or not so little) lapses in logic might occur. In fact, the film’s overall goofy weirdness tends to automatically transform its missteps and wonky reasoning into campy charm. I don’t know if it was its shameless misrepresentation of multiple personality disorder (see also RAISING CAIN) or its unabashed exaltation of the great BETTY BUCKLEY (see also CARRIE) but this angel of a movie inadvertently gave me the DE PALMA thriller fix I had no idea I was craving so darn badly. If NANCY ALLEN showed up, I could have died a happy man right there on my cat-shredded couch.

Please believe my sincerity when I tell you I mean this as a compliment- SPLIT not only reminded me of a delicious DE PALMA psychobabble sundae, it also made me feel like I was watching an extraordinary new breed of mutant LIFETIME movie (sorta like GONE GIRL). Three innocent teen girls (including bunny-faced ANYA TAYLOR-JOY of THE WITCH fame) are abducted from a mall (KING OF PRUSSIA MALL, the same joint I rented my very first VHS tapes from!) and kept prisoner by a madman with a ton of personalities and an enviable wardrobe. Bring a snack! This is the type of movie that if you caught it on TV, you’d never be able to change the channel or go back to sleep. Yes, it hit me in my LIFETIME zone and I found myself just as trapped as those girls. The only thing that softened the tension for me was the fact that I felt so comfortable in the lunatic’s living space and really related to his decorating style (especially the child alternate’s room with the stuffed animals). I realize now that the absolute perfect window for me is one that is drawn with a crayon. Let’s face it; I wouldn’t try to escape. Is that bad?

Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting JAMES McAVOY, he gets his own paragraph. Who is this guy? I barely noticed him in those X MEN movies and I didn’t make it past 30 minutes of VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN but he’s truly a wonder to behold in SPLIT. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed an actor so gleefully reveling in the boundless possibilities of his craft before. He’s completely free and fearless and you can’t take your eyes off of him. I’m sure somebody with a keener ear than mine could find faults with his delivery but his overall effervescence sold me completely.

And I have to say, even though this film’s representation of a dissociated identity disorder/multiple personality disorder is outdated, cartoonish and bordering on irresponsible, I can’t help being intoxicated by it. Maybe it’s just residual affiliation left over from my preteen obsession with SYBIL but I’m too intrigued by this questionably accurate construct to let it go. Even if multiple personalities don’t exist as this persistent Hollywood trope suggests, I think there is a useful truth about the fluidity of personal identity being represented that we all can relate to and recognize in ourselves. Hasn’t everyone had the experience of seeing different sides of themselves emerge when confronted by difficult situations? Is it uncommon to fear that an emotion might take you over, that if you were to express your anger fully you’d be in danger of becoming a monster? Who doesn’t want to regress back to the simple joys of childhood when reality becomes hideous? I guess what I’m saying is whatever this presentation of mental illness lacks in the accuracy department, I think it makes up for by relaying a bigger truth about the human condition. That’s my rationalization anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

I know I’m super late to the game and get zero cool points for gushing over a highly successful mainstream movie by a popular director six months after its release but this all does my heart good anyway. It’s a solid reminder that people can still surprise you after you have completely given up on them. I not only disagreed that THE VISIT was a return to form for M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, I also thought THE VISIT was one of the most annoying motion pictures ever made.

But now I’m letting bygones be bygones. I’m even going to join the rest of the world and erase that faux-documentary THE BURIED SECRET OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN from my memory banks. It’s a good thing to have a director out there interested in the darker, more mysterious side of life making decent films again. A rising tide lifts all boats! Maybe now some more performance-reliant character driven independent horror films will get made- who knows? Plus, I have to give M. NIGHT his rightful due for consistently showcasing the super glamorous city of Philadelphia, the home of Kindertrauma Kastle, in the most complimentary light possible. In the end though, I’m most happy with the film’s bold conclusion. As we all know, M. KNIGHT is notorious for his twist endings. In this particular case, the ending actually opens the film up and expands its universe, increasing the possibilities. Whereas, I think the lion’s share of his previous rug-pulls do the exact opposite. I guess it could be argued that I enjoyed this because my expectations were low but the reality is, an exceptional performance (and a heaping dollop of BETTY BUCKLEY) goes a long way. Your mileage may vary but for me, SPLIT is just what the doctor ordered.

Tags: General Horror · If Loving Nancy Allen is Wrong... I Don't Want to Be Right!




6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 raphaeladidasNo Gravatar // Jun 22, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I get annoyed at theaters even when someone lightly clears their throat, but when I realized what the epilogue meant I involuntarily half-shouted “Holy shit! HOLY SHIT!”

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jun 22, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    raphaeladidas,

    !!!! That epilogue is soooo great I was applauding in my own home. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • 3 TreecatNo Gravatar // Jun 23, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Unk,

    I only watched this movie on your recommendation and I’m glad I did! I really enjoyed it and can see what you mean about a Lifetime movie vibe! I had to laugh, though, at the fact that even though the threat of sexual violence was removed fairly quickly (to the audience’s relief), the film still managed to get one character in her bra and another in her
    panties!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jun 23, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Treecat,

    I’m so glad you watched and enjoyed it! I was starting to worry that my review (especially the LIFETIME comment) would scare people away from it. I gotta say, I love a good thriller and yeah I was happy this one kept clear of the sleaze for the most part and didn’t go the torture route. It looks like my HBO GO is offering a whole bunch of M. Night films so I’m going to revisit a few starting with UNBREAKABLE.

  • 5 StickmannNo Gravatar // Jun 24, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Ohhh Shitbiscuits, son. Tell me you’ve heard of Patton Oswalt’s suggestions for “Unbreakables” and “Broken”: http://movieweb.com/unbreakable-2-3-movie-trilogy-patton-oswalt-shyamalan/ .

    “Unbreakable” is my favorite Comic Book Movie ever (barring DANIEL CLOWES’ “Ghost World”), so seeing David Dunn in the diner during the post-end-title scene had me going from clinically decreeing “Yes, M. Night is capably Back in the Saddle” to standing up in the the theater and flapping my appendages about like an electrified sea lion. No lie.

    Do You Know? “Unbreakable” is maybe one of the dozen times in the theater when the entire audience cheered and applauded (Gold Standard: JAMES CAMERON’s “ALIENS” for the quick-sucession Triple Play with RIPLEY in the Loader) at the son welling up at BRUCE WILLIS’ simple silent nod at the breakfast table. Small things like that will always make me believe that SHYAMALAN’s capacity is not just financially but emotionally bankable. Reflect on your own Track Record, internet Chattering Classes; it’s not like you’ve ever made missteps in your own life.

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jun 24, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Stickman,

    Thanks for the link! I am 100% behind that idea (and P. Oswald should have been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in YOUNG ADULT imho).

    Oh man I love GHOST WORLD too. That has one of my favorite endings in a movie- with that bus stop guy- I can watch that movie forever.

    And I agree about making mistakes. I really think artists NEED to make mistakes and that sometimes you have to get through some bad stuff to get to the really good stuff.

    Also: I saw in an interview on the SPLIT DVD M. Night saying that he changed his vision sort of when he had kids and now that they are grown he’s ready to go back to the themes he was interested in before.

    In any case I am on board for this new direction!!! Imdb has his next project listed as GLASS and I’m pretty sure that it going to be in the UNBREAKABLE universe. Can’t wait.

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