SPLIT

 

Once again we return to the ongoing saga of "M. Night: The Enigma of a Filmmaker". In the last episode we had the once heralded director crawling over to the discount movie kings, Blumhouse Production, to make a movie. It was the equivalent of a race car driver with a losing record begging for a ride from Yugo.

 

Not that working for Blumhouse is a bad thing, they do one thing very well and that is make money. Their business model is the envy of the movie industry. They budget now more than $5 million dollars in a film, pick someone to develop the film under budget, market the hell out of the film, then watch the profits roll in; generally in the first weekend. It makes money, because they didn't spend a lot of money in the first place. The exception to the rule was their only flop, Jem and the Holograms" which they budgeted exactly $5 million but earned only $2.3 million back...worldwide!

 

But before you start passing the collection plate remember, their first film was "Paranormal Activity" which cost them all of $15 thousand dollars and netted them $195 million worldwide. Domestically, the "Paranormal Activity" series has earned them $401 million on a total of $28.015 million. You do the math. Plus they own the "Sinister", "Insidious", "The Purge" and "Ouija" series. Just to show the rest of Hollywood they were a one trick pony, they produced Oscar winner "Whiplash" for only $3.3 million. Their boldest move was developing "The Gallows" which was made by two guys who basically had no film experience save for bit parts in throwaway movies.

Jason Blum gave M. Night a shot with "The Visit" in 2015, with the same $5 million budget as the rest of the Blumhouse directors pool. Mind you, this was fresh off of M. Night's $130 million fiasco called "After Earth" which made only $60 million back. "The Visit" garnered $65 million and was thus winner for Blumhouse. So, why not throw M. Night another bone.

 

This time, the story involves a guy with 23 different personalities or dissociative identity disorder (DID). The last time there was a successful film about multiple personalities was in 1957 when Joanne Woodward starred in "The Three Faces of Eve"; she took home an Oscar for her performance.

 

This time M. Night cast James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with twenty-three personalities. He is being treated, as it were, by a fame psychiatrist - Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) - who is getting a handle on Kevin's other twenty two personalities. Oh, there is one in development that she is unaware of.

The first of his personalities we meet is Barry, who decides to kidnap three teenage girls by overcoming a father and taking the car with them in it. He first knocks out Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor Joy). Of the three, Casey proves to be the toughest as we learn that she had a different childhood than the other two; a background that is slowly developed through the film.

 

Barry imprisons the three girls, initially all together then apart as they become more troublesome. One by one, they meet three of his other primary personalities including Patricia (a meticulous woman), Dennis (a fashionista), and Hedwig (a nine year old boy). All the personalties talk of another that is coming and the girls realize that doesn't sound good. In the meantime, Dr Fletcher is peeling back the layers as one of the personalities - Dennis - begins acting strange.

 

After M. Night reveals Casey's background, the film goes downhill, wrapping-up with a very disappointing end that may leave the viewer a bit pissed. It should have been less predictable and it shouldn't have relied on old blasť special effects and gimmicks.

 

The film does demonstrate McAvoy's versatility as he seamlessly shifts from one character to the next giving all distinct characteristics. It was like a two-hour audition tape. Taylor-Joy is making claim that she is the next official strange girl with yet an-

other solid performance that backs up her last two films "Morgan" and "The Witch".

 

"Split" will leave you unimpressed once again with M. Night Shyamalan as he continues foraging for his lost talent. The film could easily describe M. Night as two different people: the good director and the artless guy. The artless guy would be the dominate personality.   -- GEOFF BURTON

 

GEOFF BURTON

 

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