24 personalities to hate.
I hate acts of violence committed against children. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Now you know. Besides it’s obviously unsettling and disturbing nature, there’s no purpose to inflict this type of trauma on children of any age in a movie. What good does it do? What does it contribute to the story, really? Would it really have killed the film if any of these actors were at least five years older? Three?
Split is a sick, disgusting, cancerous movie that mistakes little girls’ suffering for entertainment. Those girls are Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula, all of them playing high school classmates. After attending a birthday party, the three girls are kidnapped by Kevin (James McAvoy), who gases the girls in their car until they pass out. Hours later, they wake up in a small room that looks like prime territory for an experienced rapist. Kevin never does anything, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch if he ever did.
The girls eventually find out that “Kevin” is not exactly one person, but multiple. Suffering from Disassociative Identity Disorder, Kevin has 24 personalities in his head, and the girls converse with all of them. The one that kidnapped them is named Dennis, an OCD clean freak that will rip your clothes off if you so much as have a smudge on them. There’s Clarissa, an almost-motherly figure were it not that she (he?) ordered Dennis to kidnap the girls in the first place. There’s a nine-year old named Hedwig, who’s the most friendly to the girls out of Kevin’s personalities. And then lurking in the back of Kevin’s mind is the 24th personality, who the other personalities refer to as “The Beast.”
First of all, I need to address Kevin’s disorder. The film’s portrayal of the disease is inaccurate at its best, demonizing at its worst. There are multiple inconsistencies with the film’s portrayal of the disease, including:
- The different personalities having conversations with each other (they don’t).
- Kevin’s body composition and appearance changes based on what personality has taken over (it doesn’t).
- Kevin’s original personality can be summoned forward if you say his full name (he can’t).
- The different personalities can get so extreme that it can make Kevin bulletproof and have super strength (definitely not).
That, however, isn’t even the worse part of Split’s portrayal of DID. With Kevin kidnapping, torturing, and brutalizing these young girls, the film portrays the victims of this disease as dangerous and threatening, when in most cases they’re relatively harmless to anyone except themselves. As someone who personally suffers from another mental disorder, I’m offended by the movie for demonizing Kevin’s disease and for making it look more dangerous than it actually is. It makes people suffering from this disease look like horrible people, when in fact they’re suffering in ways none of us can understand. These people deserve to be sympathized with, not apathized.
But hell, forget about it. This is a movie, after all, and filmmakers are allowed to take artistic license for the purpose of advancing their art and storytelling. At least, that’s the excuse I would give if this movie had any sort of art or storytelling to it. From start to finish, the only purpose of Split is to see little girls get hurt by a megalomaniac who tortures them differently with each of his personalities. Seeing anyone being tortured by one assailant is enough. Seeing three girls being manhandled by 24 assailants in one body is revolting.
A few things these girls are forced to go through after being kidnapped include: dancing, urinating on themselves, fondling, being stripped from their clothes, separated into other rooms, taunted by a knife, forced into small spaces, psychologically tortured, having their intestines ripped out, and eventually eaten alive, although by what exactly I won’t say. I’m watching all of this absolutely mortified, not only by what I’m seeing on-screen, but also knowing that this movie was rated PG-13. My mind raced, wondering how many teenagers might have also watched this atrocity and told their friends about it enthusiastically afterwards.
The violence against these girls serve no purpose. None. It is not fun. It is not thrilling. It is not exciting. It is ugly, twisted, and demented, and it’s even worse when you think about studio executives approving of this sort of on-screen torture porn against children. How can you look at everything Kevin is doing here and think “Hey, this teenage suffering is worth some money. Let’s market it to teenagers.”
I say all this knowing full well that I have praised other horror films with teenage protagonists, including Halloween, Scream, and Nightmare On Elm Street. Other horror films, such as Poltergeist, Sinister, and The Shining have had even younger children in them. So how come I’m more forgiving of these movies and not Split?
I think it has to do with intentions. In the aforementioned films, the children are either ignorant or unsuspecting of the overlying threat looming over them, whereas the adults are fully aware and terrified of it. That enhances the horror experience and makes us bite our nails at the action happening on-screen. And in the case of Halloween, Scream, and Nightmare, the screenplay says they’re teenagers, but they look more mature in their on-screen appearance. It’s not hard to see Jamie Lynn Curtis, Neve Campbell, or Heather Lagenkamp as seniors, maybe even as college students.
But the girls in Split look very much like young girls, as in 12 to 13. Even though they’re all older than 20, they all look like somebody’s kid that just came out of recess. To see them like this and have the camera watch them eagerly as they’re being tortured with very little clothing on is sickening and disgusting. It makes me wonder if the actresses parents were bothered at all while watching them. If they weren’t, what does that say about them?
What caused these personalities to emerge in Kevin? The reason implied is sexual abuse, as Kevin’s mother always grabbed a coat hanger any time she saw mess in her house. There’s sexual abuse implied for another character too, although I won’t spoil by saying who. Kevin refers to himself and the other individual as “pure”, saying that they are the special ones who will inherit the Earth. To imply that you have to be sexually abused in order to become genetically superior is both disgusting and insensitive. I would love to hear some sexual assault victims opinions’ on this film, and I would love the studio heads to sit down and listen to it as well.
This is a new low for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, unmatched by most of his recent failures. The Happening. The Last Airbender. After Earth. And now Split. At least with the previous films, they were just poorly made or insulting to our intelligence. But Split fails with something far, far worse. It insults our dignity, it insults what the PG-13 rating allows into theaters, and it insults what consumers consider as “entertainment.” This can’t fairly be labeled as the worst film of the year because it’s technically immaculate. But it’s the film with the worst intentions, and that matters more.
I recognize James McAvoy as an outstanding talent, and the fact that he can brave through all of these different personalities and perform all of them enthusiastically speaks to his range as an actor. But I’m not here to review his performance. I’m here to review the film. And the movie is poisonous, harmful, and disingenuous, no matter how great of a performance may be in it.
Split is an immoral, abhorrent waste of film, made all the more worse because we’re seeing kids suffering no less in it. The studio heads were wrong to make a movie like this, and they’re damn wrong if they think we’re supposed to accept it as entertainment.