M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on January 27, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here from Universal Pictures! Also streaming on
Directed by M. Night Shamalayan
Written by M. Night Shamalayan
Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Izzie Coffey, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff, Ukee Washington, Robert Michael Kelly, Rosemary Howard, Jerome Gallman, M. Night Shamalayan, & Bruce Willis
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook, and @SplitMovie
M. Night Shamalayan delivers his darkest film yet with SPLIT, a tale of fantasy and multiple personalities.
SPLIT jumps right into the action as three young girls are being escorted home by their father after a birthday at a mall. When the girls enter the car, they realize that a stranger has slipped into the driver’s seat. They wake up in a sealed room to find that they have been abducted by a strange man named Kevin Wendell Crumb who suffers from multiple personality disorder (James McAvoy). Each time Kevin appears to them, he exhibits a different personality, from a 12 year old scamp named Dennis to a matronly female personality named Patricia. Casey (THE VVITCH’s Anya Taylor-Joy) seems to understand her abductor in ways the other two don’t and we find out why when we flash back and forth to her own past filled with vauge references to abuse. Meanwhile, Kevin’s psychologist theorizes that he is up to no good again and tries to pry into his hidden personalities during his required therapy sessions. And all of the Kevin’s 23 personalities attest that a 24th personality is emerging, a personality they all fear only known as the Beast.
While Shamalyan’s star had been fading fast over the last fifteen years, SPLIT shows a new sense of vigor and a return to form. A carefully crafted game of cat and mouse is created in this film as Casey and the two girls attempt to escape from their prison by outsmarting Kevin. All the while, we follow Kevin’s psychologist who fears Kevin has manifested some of his more dangerous personalities and she tries to uncover just what he is up to. These two stories intersect seamlessly. It’s less of a mystery, and more of a two tier story—one outside the box and one inside the box and the suspense is when the two parites will meet.
This being a Shamalayan film, I’m always expecting a twist in the end. There is quite a bombshell dropped in the last few seconds of the film, but I found myself looking for clues and not trusting the storyteller. This is Shamalayan’s fault, of course, as he has injected this mind-blowing twist into his most popular films. But after watching SPLIT and trying to figure out the twist that never comes—for a while I speculated that the trapped girls were metaphorical manifestations of Kevin’s personalities being vanquished by the Beast one by one. I also began to wonder if the psychologist was yet another personality working against the dangerous ones. This actually took me out of the movie and I urge folks to ride this story through and trust Shamalayan to deliver some dark and exciting scenes rather than keep your eyes peeled for a switcheroo. It’ll be a much more enjoyable experience if you do that. I think my first viewing would have been better had I not been racking my brain to figure out the twist before it’s revealed.
The real draw to this film is James McAvoy’s portrayal of the multiple personalities. From the previews, I wondered if seeing McAvoy in drag or acting like a special needs child would be a step too far to believe, but in the end, I was utterly convinced at McAvoy’s conviction to take these characters seriously. We spend enough time with McAvoy in these different personas to get acquainted with them. Shamalayan and McAvoy plays everything straight and it miraculously works. All of McAvoy’s characters are convincing, making the film itself all the more chilling seeing McAvoy transform from one personality to the next—all of them different, all horrifying.
There is a hint that Casey herself might be suffering from multiple personality disorder herself as we are made privy to her past through flashbacks. This is never fully resolved by the end and feels almost like a red herring tossed out there to distract and confuse the audience rather than provide any further understanding of her character. It is possible they are setting Joy up as a heroine in future films—sort of Kevin’s good opposite, but that plot thread is never really given time to blossom as the climax focuses solely on a gruesome and arduous battle between Kevin and Casey in the labyrinthine prison.
While all of Shamalayan’s films are dark, this is him at his darkest. Kevin abducts young girls because their innocence and purity disgusts him. There is death, there is suggested incest and rape, there is murder, and monstrous animal rage and fury in SPLIT. It’s an angry and mean film, and one I feel is rawer than I’ve ever seen in a Shamalayan film. I like it that Shamalayan shows his pitch dark side here in this tale that the has tied into his UNBREAKABLE film in the final moments of the movie. In some ways, it feels like Shamalayan was thinking about his next film combining the two characters while making this one, but in the process he has created a truly horrifying villain in Kevin and his multiple personalities.
THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!
#21 – SPLIT
#22— TRASH FIRE
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN
#24 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#25 – THE SUBLET
#26 – PATCHWORK
#27 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#28 – GERALD’S GAME
#29 – LAKE BODOM
#30 – NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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