Movie Review: Split

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This is a really gripping film. It is filmed in the Philadelphia area. Most of the action occurs in a basement area of the Philadelphia zoo. This film is a thriller, and the action begins immediately. Three teenage girls are finishing up with a birthday party and their father is about to drive them home. One of the girls is distinctive because she hardly talks and is an outcast in the social circle that attended the party. This girl will end up playing a key role in the film, and also contributes key thematic content. The girl notices, through the side mirror, that something has spilled behind the car. The father was putting presents in the trunk. Quickly, a strange man enters the car and uses a painful spray to render the two girls in the backseat unconscious. This way they cannot scream. The man’s name is Kevin Crumb, and he has a mental illness known as dissociative identity disorder. This means that he has multiple personalities. Many different personalities inhabit Kevin’s consciousness. The man who abducts the girls is Dennis, an authoritarian, grim figure who arose as a protective leader in response to the severe abuse Kevin received at the hands of his mother. Another personality is Patricia, a very strict and proper woman with a British accent.

The three girls try to avoid and/or manipulate Kevin into letting them out of the basement dungeon. Dennis is a pervert who would like to use the girls for his sexual pleasure. Patricia is in league with Dennis in keeping the young women captive. Hedwig is a nine year old boy who wants people to stop making fun of him. Though one of the girls manages to escape through a duct in the ceiling, Kevin later captures her and puts her in solitary confinement. Another girl meets the same fate when she sneaks up behind Kevin and whacks him with a chair. Kevin just chases her down and recaptures her.

While all this drama is proceeding in the basement, Kevin is seeing his psychologist. The psychologist senses that something suspicious is going on, as Kevin keeps calling for emergency appointments. Kevin appears as Barry in his visits with the doctor. Barry is a fashion-conscious, effeminate man. James Mcavoy, the actor who plays Kevin, does an excellent job transitioning through the different characters that inhabit Kevin’s mind. Kevin’s doctor, though sensing that something is wrong, takes action very late, after two of the girls have already been killed.

Dennis, the strict authority figure who is the personality responsible for the killings, keeps referring to the coming of the beast. One of the central ideas of the movie is that people with DID aren’t actually disabled, but are tapping into powers of the human mind of which most are unaware. Kevin’s doctor is the proponent of this controversial theory. She claims that, by believing that they are a certain person, people with DID actually become this person. Kevin has this idea of the personality of the Beast, which has superhuman physical powers–the ability to climb walls, run at extremely fast speeds, etc.  At the end of the movie, Kevin actually becomes the Beast, proving that his doctor’s understanding of DID was correct.

Another theme I want to touch on is the Beast’s attitude to those who have not suffered trauma. He refers to people who have lived comfortable, sheltered lives as impure and tainted. This is interesting, as I think it’s fair to say that people who have suffered have another dimension to their personality than those who have not. The Beast ends up sparing Casey, the girl who was the social outcast and who was also the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle, but kills the other two girls, who have suffered no serious trauma.

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