Shyamalan’s newest film splits opinions

By Ollie Gratzinger | Asst. Features Editor

Before I get too deep into this, I’ll set down a disclaimer that I’m not usually a fan of horror movies. Thrillers put me on edge and gore makes me lightheaded, but as far as creepy, mentally surreal stories go, “Split” wasn’t half bad. It was unique for sure, and there were twists that even the most well-versed movie buff couldn’t predict. With that being said, it wasn’t without its flaws.

“Split,” M. Night Shyamalan’s newest psychological-horror, chronicles the terror that finds three teenage girls when they’re abducted by a man struggling with what seems to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the 23 distinct personalities that come with it. If they want to escape in one piece, they’re forced to be creative in their communications with each individual personality, paying careful attention to a 24th character that may be more dangerous than all others combined.

Even before it released on Jan. 20, the film came under fire for its seemingly negative and criminalizing depiction of mental illness. There was a fear that the film would equate mentally ill to innately violent, and that it would, in doing so, demonize a group of people who are already demonized enough by a society that doesn’t understand. However, it fortunately wasn’t the deeply damaging thing that the masses thought it would be. It was clearly a work of fiction, and it never once claimed to be a documentary of any kind.

In all fairness, there were parts of the film that could leave you sitting there thinking, “Wait, what? What the heck just happened?” However, an unexpected coda after a few seconds of credits will bring a special treat for long-time fans of M. Night Shyamalan. They could expect the biggest surprise yet, and that twist could act as the connecting piece that does away with any confusion you might be feeling.

Another notable aspect of the film was its soundtrack. Its use of low trills and bassy, minor chords all contribute to a general sense of unease that stays with you throughout the whole movie. This, combined with eerie, vague editing and characters who go missing for long periods of time, works together with the plot to make an invested viewer just uncomfortable enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. This, of course, is one thing to look for in determining whether or not a movie is worth two hours of your time.

Despite all the controversy, what’s going on in the movie isn’t exactly DID. It looks like it at first glance, but once you see for yourself, you’ll understand what I mean. I have hope that most viewers can distinguish between truth and fiction for the sake of entertainment. As another hope, perhaps the film will not perpetuate negativity, but rather open a dialogue about mental disorders among those who otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to discuss them.

With a little luck and a lot of introspection, maybe something a little more everlasting than momentary entertainment can come from moves like “Split.”