HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:84
Whoaaaaaaaaaaaa. I feel weird saying this. M. Night Shamalamadingdong has made a good movie for once. I know, right!? Let that just sink in for a bit. I think the last film of his that was even remotely palatable was the much (and mis) maligned “Lady in the Water” back in 2006, with 2004’s “The Village” being his last highly lauded film. After that the director with a twist up his sleeve seemed destined to become a losing effort in the film world with flop after flop after flop. Last year’s “The Visit” was ALMOST enough to muster up a semblance of his old storytelling ability, but sadly it faltered BADLY. Well, after years of waiting, and a cynical nature that wondered if we would ever see another M. Night movie do decently at the box office, I’m happy to be proven wrong. “Split” is not just a decent film, but actually a very GOOD film from the disgraced director. There’s a few issues in the 3rd act, but those are very minor and don’t really detract from the overall story that has come before.
The trailer teased us with horror flick that dealt with multiple personalities and some hints at Shyamalan’s signature love of the supernatural under the surface. Right off the bat we know that James McAvoy is going to be the villain and we get to meet him right at the beginning of the film. Three girls, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are abducted from Claire’s father on the way to a birthday part by an evil looking Dr. Xavier. Waking up, the girls find themselves locked in a closed off room somewhere underground and no way out. The only hints they get are from Dennis (McAvoy), the man who has abducted them and refuses to let them out. The only thing is, Dennis is not the only one down there. There is also Patricia, and a young 9-year-old boy named Hedwig. The thing is, they all share the same body. The same body as Dennis.
Frantic to get out the girls realize that things are not as they seem. The different personalities of Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig are separate and completely isolated from each other, making escape a near impossibility. Outside of the room we’re let in to the little secrets of our mysterious villain. It seems that he is being treated by a Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) for a dissociative disease known as DID. Under this condition the original patient, Kevin, has developed 23 distinct and individual identities that have taken over his body in his own coping mechanism. For years the good doctor has treated him and allowed the benign ones like Barry to come out to the surface. The only thing is, that equilibrium has been thrown out of whack due to Hedwig, who has the ability to force his personality out into the open and give control to anyone he wishes. Now Patricia and Dennis, the most cynical of the group, have been allowed free reign and they have a plan. A plan that the rest of the 23 personalities are terrified of. A plan that will bring forth a monster than NO ONE can control. A monster who will devour and tear away anything in his path.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95346[/img]M. Night Shyamalan has a propensity for making his supernatural films either horror or super-hero in nature, and in “Split” he kind of blends the two together. Much like most of his films, “Split” runs a fine line between teasing the viewers with hints of something more sinister and supernatural while allowing for the possibility of it being completely normal up until the very end of the film. The trailer alone spoils the fact that Kevin/Dennis/Patricia believe there is another personality that will allow him to turn into a monstrous beast, but we as the viewer are still guessing how much of that is really going to happen, and how much of that is just in his mind. Honestly, I’m not going to spoil it for you, but believe me, the twist master keeps the cards close enough to his chest to keep you guessing. What I would say is don’t watch listen to what is being said, but listen very carefully for what is NOT being said. Reading between the lines nets more than the simple smoke and mirrors of what is actually going on.
The premise of “Split” is quite good, but what makes the film truly marvelous is the casting choices. I have loved McAvoy for quite some time and find the man a fantastic actor when he’s given the right material (I was horrified to see what they did with him in “X-Men: Apocalypse), and his addition to the film is the single greatest part of the movie. The film is almost a 3 person act (with Claire and Marica taking up a goodly portion of the rest of the movie) and the two trapped people (one in his own mind, the other in a physical cage) play off each other incredibly well. McAvoy is simply brilliant as the tortured minds that his alter egos have made up. He can switch from Dennis to Patricia to Hedwig in the blink of an eye and you can visibly see the different personas shift. Each role is impeccably acted and each persona is completely believable. Anya is fantastic as well, and plays a much different role than her characters in “The VVitch” and “Morgan” (I almost didn’t recognize her with the gothic black hair). Had those two not been cast, I could see this being laughed out of the theater, but because of their chemistry and enthusiasm the movie actually plays off as believable.
For those of you who have watched M. Night Shyamalan’s films in the past, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. “Split” is in a shared universe with one of his other films. I’m not going to let you know WHICH one of them it is, but let me say it is one of Shyamalan’s best movies and there are enough hints dropped along the way to figure out if you’re so inclined (the cameo at the end solidifies that little nugget).
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95354[/img]“Split” was shot digitally and given a 2K digital intermediary (it used the Arri Alexa cameras that capture at 2.8k, so a 4K master probably wouldn’t have done much) and the results are interestingly glossy and smooth. I’ve talked with a number of people in the industry and they all agree with me. The film would have fared better with a film source instead of a digital source, as the cramped and dim lighting of the underground lair would have looked substantially grittier and more “grimy” than the slightly overly glossy digital imagery. That’s not to say that it doesn’t look great. Far from that in fact. The digital shoot is clean and clear of most artifacts and besides some black crush doesn’t have any other major artifacting going on (no real issues with digital noise or banding) and the neutral colors display plenty of fine detail to the naked eye. Textrues are well defined (although sometimes a little smoothed in my opinion) and overall clarity is razor sharp.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95362[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable of giving a chilling performance and makes for a wonderful auditory experience. The film shows plenty of depth with the score and the little individual sounds placed around the soundstage during the girl’s captivity, and the surrounds are never given anything but plenty of material to work with. You can hear the dripping of water in another room, or the scraping of feet along the floor as Claire tries to escape from the tunnel. Dialog is clean and clear, locked solidly up front in the center channel. The film has a wonderful “oppressive” atmosphere that fits in with the nature of the confinement, and the low end is given a brutal amount of power to pummel you with. Sometimes it feels a little harsh and overbearing, but it seems to have been done by design to give a visceral and impactful sensation to the watch. Top notch from beginning to end.
• Alternate Ending
• Deleted Scenes
• The Making of Split- Filmmakers, cast, and crew discuss what attracted them to the project and how they were able to bring such a unique premise to life.
• The Many Faces of James McAvoy- A look at how James McAvoy approached the challenge of playing so many different identities.
• The Filmmaker's Eye: M. Night Shyamalan - Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan has a singular, big-picture vision of his projects. Producers, cast, and crew discuss how Night's process gives them the freedom to execute their roles to the fullest.
“Split” is a fantastic blend of horror/sci-fi and supernatural in a way that actually makes me wonder WHY Shyamalan hasn’t pulled out scripts like this in the past 11 years since “Lady in the Water”. It’s nuanced, and uses some amazing dialog combined with impeccable acting to keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The Blu-ray itself is given very excellent specs, although the extras are slimmer than I personally would have liked. Still, I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by “Split” and have to say that it is definitely worth watching. Strongly Recommended.
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Buy Split On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Strongly Recommended
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