Split Parent Review

Preying on memories of comparable real world crimes, this horror movie may prove disturbing, as well as frightening.

Overall C-

Kevin (James McAvoy) suffers from split-personality disorder. His changing personas become increasingly dangerous and cause him to kidnap three teenaged girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula).

Violence C-
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C
Substance Use C

Split is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

Movie Review

Split presents a woman-as-victim plot that may strike fear into many moviegoers. The premise involves three nubile girls being kidnapped by a man (James McAvoy) who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. While leaving a birthday party held at a shopping mall the teens are drugged with an aerosol spray and taken to an unknown location where their abductor has access to a variety of locked rooms that are resistant to getaway attempts.

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Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), the birthday girl, and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are friends at school and share concerns about fashion and moving in the right social circles. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is reclusive and awkward in crowds, was a pity invite. But now the party is definitely over. Locked in a room with fresh drywall with access to an unusually bright and modern bathroom, Claire and Marcia begin screaming, banging and plotting an escape. Casey, on the other hand, at first appears resigned to their fate. But through a series of flashbacks, we discover this isn’t her first rodeo. Casey’s difficult past unwittingly offers the best defense against the many personalities of their jailor.

Kevin (the character’s legal name) is unable to control which of his 23 personas will be in the “light” at any given moment. Dennis is the hardened initial captor. In a moment he is replaced by Hedwig, a young boy with a lisp. And, on occasion, there’s Patricia, who dons a skirt and heels. However, no matter which personality is on stage, there’s an ominous warning of the arrival of the 24th, known as The Beast.

If you’re left wondering how this unstable guy has managed to evade professional intervention, that answer comes during one of his many visits with his psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). Usually she meets with Barry, a creative and warm-hearted fashion designer. Although the doctor thinks she has the patient under control, her perceptions are distorted by both an ultraistic and opportunistic vision of the professional benefits she could derive from helping Kevin with his Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Meanwhile, back at the holding site, each failed attempt the girls make to free themselves results in being separated and commanded to remove their sweaters and skirts. (Two of them are eventually left in only bras and underpants.)

Preying on memories of comparable real world crimes, this movie may prove disturbing, as well as frightening, especially for female viewers or those who have personally experienced mistreatment. While never explicitly seen, abusive activity, killings with guns and brute force, and cannibalism are strongly implied, along with brief depictions of gore. When the script shifts to include an almost comic-book-like portrayal of this monstrous situation, it may almost appear to be lacking sympathy for individuals suffering from similar cruelty.

James McAvoy does give an amazing performance as the multi-faceted Kevin, however the movie still ends with an unsettling message: Only those who are damaged themselves have any hope of survival against truly dangerous people.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release January 20, 2017. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Split here.

Split Parents Guide

What techniques does this movie employ to create suspense within viewers’ minds? How does confinement work to build this fear? Do you think this movie would be more frightening for certain people? Women vs. men? Teens vs. adults? How might a film touch on fears beyond what might be expected from a “horror” or “thriller” film?

Dr. Fletcher has spent much of her professional career studying people with Dissociative Identity Disorders. Do you think professionals may become too comfortable with subjects that could cause them or others harm? What motivates Dr. Fletcher to continue to believe she can help Kevin? How do her professional aspirations fit into this perception?