Heralded as "one of his best films – period" (Alex Welch, IGN), M. Night Shyamalan returns to the screen with SPLIT. Kevin Crumb's (James McAvoy) fractured mind has revealed 23 personalities, but one remains dangerously submerged, set to materialize and dominate the others. McAvoy delivers "the role of his career" (Peter Debruge, Variety) as Kevin reaches a war for dominance among all those that rage within him, threatening his stability and impacting the survival of everyone around him.
There are a lot of us – myself included – who owe M. Night Shyamalan a big, fat apology. I was a huge fan of his early work, such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, but – like many of you I suspect – slowly began to lose all interest in the director after lackluster efforts such as The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth. The man who was once called the successor to Steven Spielberg seemed like another flash-in-the-pan whose rocket burned bright for a while, but burned out far too quickly. 2015's The Visit showed hints that the M. Night we knew and loved all those years ago still had a little left in the tank. And now we get Split - not only the director's best movie in more than a decade, but one that ranks right up there with his best work. Turns out that rocket had a second stage we didn't know about.
Split begins at the conclusion of a girls' birthday party where gal pals Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) tell Claire's father about how another girl that has been invited to the party, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), is a bit of a recluse. Casey is waiting for someone to pick her up, but Claire's father insists on driving her home – not wanting to leave her waiting there alone. In the parking lot, the three girls get in the car, but don't see the father being drugged to the point of unconsciousness as he's putting items in the trunk. A mysterious stranger who we'll soon learn goes by many names and many personalities (and played incredibly by James McAvoy) gets in the car, drugs the two girls in the back, and eventually drugs Casey as well when she makes a move to escape.
The trio is taken to the man's underground lair, where they discover he suffers from DID (or "Dissociative Identity Disorder"), with some of his personalities being quite terrifying and others being more passive and kind. Some of his identities are more dominant than others, however, and viewers learn that two in particular, a male named "Dennis" and a female named "Patricia", are really running the show. One of the other identities, "Barry", who loves fashion design, meets frequently with psychiatrist Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), although she is aware of the 23 personalities that he carries inside.
While Dr. Fletcher has no idea about the girls he's currently holding captive, she does become intrigued by a 24th personality that Barry, Dennis, etc., keeps mentioning: that of "The Beast", who Karen believes he has made up and doesn't exist, but who the man claims is a large and powerful master who must be served. To reveal any more about Split's story would spoil the fun, but trust me when I say that this is far more than just a simple abduction/horror story. M. Night has a much more powerful vision in mind...one whose "big reveal" will either leaving one scratching their head or flipping out with joy – all depending on your knowledge of M. Night and his other movies.
Thankfully, unlike so many other M. Night titles, the movie stands alone without the reveal at the very end (which comes after the title card, but quickly enough that viewers won't tune out before seeing it). The director could have very easily released this movie without the "twist" at all, and I wouldn't have changed my admiration for the film one iota. Going into the movie, I was worried that this would just be another typical Hollywood thriller, with McAvoy chewing the scenery and endless "scare" moments (you know the kind...where you think the killer is hiding behind the door, the soundtrack music wells up, and a cat jumps out). But it's not that at all. In fact, I don't think there's a single "scare" moment as described above in the entire movie (although it's certainly scary), and despite the villainy of McAvoy's character, he often comes off as quite sympathetic. There's a wonderful (albeit horrific) backstory to the character of Casey here too, and a connection between her and McAvoy's character (although not the one I thought the movie was going to give us, given some of the early scenes) that gives Split staying power than 99 percent of other horror/thriller movies never achieve.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Split multiplies onto home video with this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD release. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside a standard Elite keepcase, which includes an insert with a code for an iTunes or UltraViolet digital copy of the movie on one side and a code for a free digital movie on the flip side. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front loaded with a 60-second trailer for Tom Cruise's upcoming reboot of The Mummy, a 30-second trailer for The Bye Bye Man, a full-length trailer for MindGamers, a 30-second trailer for Incarnate, and a full-length trailer for The Great Wall. The Blu-ray's main menu is the typical Universal design, with a still of the movie's one-sheet poster on the right two-thirds of the screen and menu selections vertically down the left side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
Split was shot digitally on Arri Alexa XT cameras and is presented here in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. M. Night hired Michael Gioulakis as his Director of Photography after enjoying the work he did on It Follows. If you've seen that movie, the look of this title isn't too dissimilar.
Split has a very warm look to it, with colors often bordering on the edge of oversaturation, especially the reds and oranges. Because so much of the story takes place in the main character's dimly lit underground lair, black levels are important – and while I wouldn't go as far to say they are "inky deep", they're good enough that noise doesn't rear its ugly head in the backgrounds and shadow dilatation is pretty solid.
The image is not glitch-free, however. I noticed more than a few shots where aliasing happens as the camera is panning, and there's a particularly odd occurrence that exists around the 34-minute mark of the movie when James McAvoy's character has cornered Haley Lu Richardson's character outside a set of lockers. The picture dims for a second or two, then returns to normal. It does this a couple of times and on both the shot looking at McAvoy as well as the shot looking at Richardson. None of the visible lighting in the room is flickering, so if this was intentional, it's not very well established and appears to be a technical glitch. However, not having seen Split in theaters, I'm unable to say if this issue is from the source material or a problem with the transfer.
Overall, however, the movie looks very nice on Blu-ray, and aside from those few small instances noted above, it's a pleasant presentation that viewers should enjoy.
The featured audio here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and it's a competent enough rendering, although it doesn't really offer much immersion. The track's surrounds are primarily used to enhance West Dylan Thordson's musical score, as well as to add a few distinct creaks and other ambient noises that add just the right level of creepiness to the villain's labyrinth of underground rooms. LFE use is virtually non-existent, but the overall mix is still well done and there are no issues with the dialogue, which is crisp and clear throughout. This is one of those tracks that is more impressive by its subtlety rather than any loud bombastic moments. It's properly rendered and free of apparent glitches, but it's not something that's going to give one's home theater a workout.
In addition to the lossless English track, 5.1 DTS tracks in both Spanish and French are also available, as is an English DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Note: Several of the bonus materials on this disc make reference to the "twist" from the end of the movie. It's highly recommended that you watch the film first before checking out any of the bonuses!
Alternate Ending (HD 1:37) – An alternate ending with an optional introduction by M. Night. (Note: The running time listed includes the introduction).
Deleted Scenes (HD 26:37) – A collection of nine deleted scenes from the movie, which can be watched together or individually. The most interesting deleted scenes here involve a character that was completely cut from the final edit – Shaw – who was played by Sterling K. Brown. Each includes an optional introduction from the director (once again, the running times listed include the introductions). They consist of:
Casey at Party (2:52)
Meeting Shaw (4:03)
Shaw Has a Party (3:15)
Shaw's Date (3:49)
Girls Talk (2:02)
Patricia Talks Meat (3:24)
Casey Tells Her Dad (2:30)
Hide and Seek with Hedwig (2:35)
Maybe We Are Crazy (2:14)
The Making of Split (HD 9:50) – A brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, which primarily features the director and members of the cast and talking about how the film came to be and their experience shooting it.
The Many Faces of James McAvoy (HD 5:38) – The actor talks about all the various personalities he plays in the movie. Also included here are comments from the director, as well as other members of the cast and crew.
The Filmmaker's Eye: M. Night Shyamalan (HD 3:40) – The director talks about his filmmaking process, including the importance of allowing ad-libbing from the actors and his obsession with getting each scene exactly as he has envisioned it. Various members of the cast and crew also chime in about working with M. Night.
Rejoice! The M. Night Shyamalan you thought might never return is back with a passion in Split, one of his best movies in a long, long time. Although M. Night gives us another "twist" ending on this one, unlike many of his other films, the story isn't dependent on the twist and the movie could work just as well without it. This is one of the best movies of 2017...with the only reason it didn't get an even higher score here due to the Blu-ray's lack of significant bonus materials. Regardless, you'll definitely want to pick this release up. Highly Recommended!