Split – Blu-ray Review
The Movie (4/5)
Don’t call it a comeback! M. Night Shyamalan made a decent return with his horror-comedy The Visit, and his return to the big screen, Split, is an even better step forward, firmly placing him back in the ranks of respected directors. While we may never forget The Last Airbender, at least we can move forward knowing that The Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable were not flukes. In typical Shyamalan fashion, Split does have a few twists and turns, so without giving too much away, I will do my best to break down the film spoiler-free.
The basis of the film is that Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with 23 personalities, has kidnapped a trio of young women and is holding them in his basement. As the three girls struggle to find out Kevin’s intentions and try to escape, they navigate through a few of Kevin’s more sinister and creepy personalities. At the same time, Kevin visits often with his psychologist and mental health doctor, who seems to sense that something is off, but can’t quite put her finger on it. As both the girls and Kevin’s doctor struggle to find answers, a new, darker personality tries to take control of Kevin’s “light”. In a race against the ticking time bomb that is Kevin’s mind, Shyamalan crafts a unique and engaging thriller that is sure to please horror fans and movie lovers alike.
The best part about Split, in my eyes, was McAvoy’s performance. He is spectacular as Kevin, and he switches through personalities with ease, putting on a tour de force of acting throughout the entire run-time. Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch), who plays Casey, is quickly establishing herself as an excellent young actress. In fact, with her excellent turns in both Split and The Witch, she has perfected the troubled youth character in both of these excellent horror movies, and she clearly has a bright future in the genre, and beyond.
In the end, I was a little disappointed with the ending, but excited about where Shyamalan’s vision could take us in the future. The first 3/4 of the film were an excellent psychological thriller, and then the tone drastically shifts in the final act, which left me kind of wondering why we explored the personalities to begin with. They were the essence of the Kevin character, and then they were sort of cheaply thrown away to find an ending. It definitely could have been better, but the first few acts are so good that I can allow for the subpar ending and won’t allow it to spoil what could have been a 5 star film. I do think it is well worth your time, and it is always nice to see the resurgence of a fan favorite director like Shyamalan, so give Split a try, and let us know in the comments what you thought about the final act!
The Video (4.5/5)
Shot on Arri Alexa cameras and finished at a 2K Digital Intermediate, Split is a damn good looking Blu-ray release. The creepy basement where Kevin keeps the girls is so bleak, and yet so full of color. The pearly white bathroom contrasts against the bare beige walls, and the gray steel door stands out against the backdrop of the room. Most of the film has a yellow or orange tint, due to the poor fluorescent lighting in Kevin’s basement dwelling, but the Blu-ray handles the tint well and never distracts from the image. The darker moments are still easy to make out, and black levels are very solid throughout. I would call this an above average Blu-ray release, but not one of the year’s best, just because the visual palette that is presented is not very appealing to the eye.
The Audio (3.5/5)
Sporting a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, the sound for Split left me wanting a bit more. At least a 7.1 track would have been great here, if not an updated Atmos or DTS:X track, and there were definitely moments that left me wanting more. Thankfully, being confined to a basement for the majority of the film does have its advantages, as the sound was never noticeably absent on my additional channels due to the limited sound stage. There are several more exciting scenes that would have been great with some extra space to breathe and let the music flow, but for what it is, it is fine. I felt that my subwoofer was under utilized, especially for a heart pounding thriller, and I wanted more from the surrounds as well. Dialogue was clear and well articulated, with no issues at all keeping track of the conversations. Not the best, but pretty standard fare.
Special Features/Packaging (3.5/5)
Split comes in a pretty average Blu-ray package, with a single Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a digital copy for use on UV services or iTunes. There were no special packaging options for this release, which is a shame; imagine what they could have done with the split personalities on a steelbook! The art is typical poster art, and there isn’t much to report in the way of packaging, but first print runs will have a slipcover.
The special features for Split are actually pretty solid for a major studio release. There is an alternate ending (still just eh) and deleted scenes (interesting), as well as a “Making Of” featurette and a feature on McAvoy’s performance as Kevin. There is also a highlight of M. Night Shyamalan in a feature titled “Filmmaker’s Eye”, which is a great look into his mind and his thought process during filming/writing of his movies, and would be a treat for major fans. There is some good content here, more than we usually get, so I was ultimately happy with what was offered.
Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)
Region Coding: A
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English SDH, French, Spanish
Runtime: 117 minutes
Overall, Split is a nice return to form for Shyamalan, and a very fun movie that explores an interesting topic. Multiple personality disorder is such a great angle to take for a horror movie villain, as it always leave the viewer in a confused mess, trying to predict the next steps of a literal madman. Shyamalan directs this one well, and McAvoy truly shines as Kevin. If you watch Split for anything, do it for the amazing performances from McAvoy and Taylor Joy. The ending did seem a bit cheap, and although it was a twist, it was not a welcome one in my mind. Take away the forced ending and I would be happier, but it does open up some more opportunities for future work with McAvoy and Shyamalan. I say it is worth a pickup. Recommended.