“Split” full of personality

The movie “Split” took on a pretty heavy topic, but what really made an impression was James McAvoy’s portrayal of the role.

Movie poster released for split featuring James McAvoy. Image courtesy of IMP Movie Poster Awards.

Movie poster released for split featuring James McAvoy. Image courtesy of IMP Movie Poster Awards.

by Gabby Mesa, Staff Writer

Picture it. You’re chilling at home over spring break, binge watching “American Horror Story: Asylum.” The entire scare factor comes from the fact that it’s set in a mental hospital where the halls are haunted and everyone is just a bit off. That’s merely one example of Hollywood using mental illness to create horror. Some argue that another example is the movie “Split,” but I found myself sympathizing with the main character, not scared of him.

The film tells the story of a man named Kevin, played by James McAvoy, who has 23 personalities. Three of his personalities dubbed as “the horde” work together to kidnap three teenage girls and the drama follows them throughout their confinement in a basement. The teenagers not only have to deal with being kidnapped but with the uncertainty of not knowing which personality they are dealing with whenever they encounter “Kevin.”

The audience should have no problem deciphering between the personalities because James McAvoy acted the heck out of the role. One of the personalities, named Hedwig, is a nine-year-old boy and Kanye fan. Even though I knew in my heart of hearts that the actor on screen was a 37-year-old man, I found myself lost in the high pitch of his voice, his questionable dance moves and his childlike reasoning. I was completely convinced that McAvoy, or Kevin, had entered into the mind frame of a nine-year-old.

Hedwig’s character often serves as a comic relief for a movie that takes on some serious topics, namely DID, or dissociative identity disorder. Hollywood has repeatedly been criticized for its use of the mental illness to build horror and suspense in films. Some critics even argue that “Split” specifically causes audience members to dehumanize those with the disorder but I would have to disagree (for the most part).

During the film, I found myself sympathizing with Kevin, who had no ill intentions and voiced his desire to overcome his disorder. When he realized the things that “the horde” had beat up to he also voiced his desire to help, going as far as asking one of the kidnapped girls to kill him. To the point of critics, the inclusion of a far from human, cannibalistic personality called “the beast” was highly questionable. But in the case of “Split,” it is the job of the viewer to understand that the movie is fiction and not an accurate representation of those who suffer from DID.

Controversy aside, the movie was suspenseful until the very end. I wouldn’t call it scary, but if you’re not a scary movie person I would suggest being prepared to look away from the screen a few times. Three-fourths of the way through the movie, I had to hold my mom’s arm because she covered her eyes, started to get out of her chair and said, “I’m leaving.” For me, “Split” didn’t live up to the gasp-invoking trailer, but it was still pretty good. If you’re thinking about seeing it… go! You can decide for yourself if it was worth all of the controversy.