Is 'Split' Scary? The 10 Most Shocking Moments From M. Night Shyamalan's Horror
How does Split bring home the bacon in the horror stakes?
I have trouble dealing with one personality, let alone 24, but James McAvoy seems to be winning over critics in M. Night Shyamalan's latest blockbuster. Billed as a psychological thriller akin to the rest of Shyamalan's work, Split has thrown its hat into the ring as one of 2017's best horrors; all that and it only came out in January. In a year of resurrecting Jigsaw, chestbursting xenomorphs, and another round of Child's Play, how does #Split bring home the bacon in the #horror stakes?
Ruling the roost as Kevin Wendell Crumb, #JamesMcAvoy plays a man who does more than just hear voices in his head, he becomes them. While most of his personalities lie dormant, the troublemakers are coming into the light to welcome the arrival of the 24th personality, the ominously named "Beast." After kidnapping three high school girls as a sacrifice, it is a race against time for Kevin's therapist to unravel the mystery before lives are lost. With more jump scares than your average #Shyamalan outing, just what were the 10 most shocking moments from Split?
1. Check Your Mirrors - The Kidnap
While it may seem more Shyamalan to have the characters abducted by aliens, the opening scene of Split set the tone for a film unlike his previous work. Having three schoolgirls kidnapped by a "normal" man in a parking lot is all too real in 2017. The news is awash with child abduction in broad daylight and Split is no different. McAvoy's Kevin (under the guise of Dennis) hops into the car and proceeds to gas the girls. The tension rises as Anya Taylor-Joy's Casey fumbles for the door handle, but we all know it is only going to go one way — it is a chilling reminder of just how easy it could be to get away with it.
2. Take Off Your Top - Dennis And The Girls
It is heavily alluded to (but never fully confirmed) that the personality of Dennis is a paedophile. The girls spend the majority of the film stripped down to the bare essentials, showing just how desperate their situation is. However, it is where Shyamalan draws the line that makes the incident even more shocking. It would have been far too easy to have the girls molested and undergo some violent rape HBO-style, but having the creepy tension bubble under the surface is all the more frightening.
3. A Woman's Touch - Patricia Isn't Here To Help
When you hear Dennis arguing outside his grimy cellar, there is hope that the girls will find rescue from the kindly female who comes to the door; however, the big reveal is that "Miss Patricia" is just McAvoy in a skirt. While anyone who had watched the trailer knew what was going to happen, it was nonetheless stomach-churning when the girls realize that their escape will be anything but simple. All hopes that Patricia will be their shining knight are dashed — as is the introduction of child-like personality Hedwig, who just wants his time to shine. Casey's hope that a window will be her chance of escape drops to the pit of your stomach when we're is shown that "the window" is just a drawing from Hedwig's 9-year-old mind pinned to the wall.
4. You Never Buy Me Flowers - The Beast's Arrival
The way in which Kevin takes a bunch of flowers to the abandoned train, just so he can welcome "the Beast" to the Horde is a representation of how unhinged the family of personalities is. After waiting all the film to see what this "Beast" was, we certainly weren't disappointed. Much more than your average personality, the Beast represents something feral and superhuman. As the police track Kevin in Beast-mode through the streets, we knew the horror was just beginning.
5. Check Your Inbox - The Personalities Call For Help
Betty Buckley was a rare good soul in between Kevin's murderous personalities, she stood out from the nameless girl actors to be the girl's only form of escape. As Kevin's therapist, Dr. Fletcher may have just been there to give ties to the world outside the bunker, but her quest to help her patient was unforgiving. We first saw Kevin (under the personality of Barry) emailing his therapist asking for help. As the film winds toward its finale, we see Dr. Fletcher's inbox flooded with emails from the "good" personalities pleading for help. While any normal person would phone the police, Dr. Fletcher's willingness to go it alone doomed her, and we felt her doom too!
6. Still Hungry? - The Beast Eats The Girls
The earlier scene of Miss Patricia making sandwiches for Claire and Marcia ironically foreshadowed their eventual deaths, and while we knew that all the girls probably wouldn't make it out alive, we didn't expect it to happen like that. Patricia's spiel about how much lions can eat became a fitting goodbye for both the girls, who were both killed (semi)off-screen by Kevin's Beast form. Casey unlocking the door to see Marica's devoured corpse was harrowing, but it was when she stumbles across the still-alive Claire that the real horror kicked in. Seeing Claire's mangled body dragged into the shadows, and then having the camera focus on the Beast literally chowing down on her body, was one of the film's biggest jumps.
7. Paging Dr. Fletcher - Dr. Fletcher's Death
As said before, you saw it coming a mile off, but a drugged Dr. Fletcher desperately scrawling instructions on how to stop Kevin was a depressing goodbye. As Fletcher plunged the knife into Kevin, only to have him snap the blade, the true power of what she had been warning us all about was revealed. Dr. Fletcher was never going to escape alive, but to witness her having her internal organs crushed in such graphic detail was horrifying — hearing her ribs crack was step too-far.
8. What's In A Name? - How To Stop Kevin
If seeing Dr. Fletcher squashed like a bug wasn't bad enough, we then had Casey's one-woman assault on the Beast. Like a reverse Candyman, it seemed for a while that all you had to do to subdue the Beast was say the real name of McAvoy's character. While chanting Kevin Wendell Crumb worked for a brief period, Dr. Fletcher's frantic scrawl of "say his name" was obviously not going to be enough. As the bad personalities forced the Beast to the front, we were left with a jump scare chase through the bowels of the building in true Shyamalan style. That final showdown as Casey revealed her self-harmed body added another layer of sadness away from your standard horror and took us into an equally bleak finale.
9. Back For More - Kevin Isn't Dead
Shyamalan could easily have fallen into the horror trope of "kill the bad guy," knowing that Freddy, or Jason, or Chucky would magically resurrect themselves for a sequel. Seeing the Beast very much still alive and chatting to the rest of the Horde as he heals from his shotgun wound wasn't there to simply set up a sequel. Shyamalan had been planning Kevin since he wrote #Unbreakable before 2000, and the two films intertwine perfectly to set up the Shyamalaniverse. If you were shocked by Kevin's survival, you will have been even more shocked by the final Easter Egg of Bruce Willis's David Dunn preparing for another superpowered outing. The film's close revealed that not only is Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass still incarcerated, but the Horde is still out there. Even for a Shyamalan twist, that is a pretty good one!
10. A Walk On The Wild Side - Casey's Relationship With Her Uncle
However, as gut-punching shock twists go, one stood out from the crowd in the most unlikely way. Away from the main action of the girls trapped in an unknown location, the flashbacks to what made "grumpy teen" Casey such an oddball started off flat. As the flashbacks pieced together we were left with the uncomfortable reveal that "Casey Bear" was the victim of her uncle's molestation as a child. The scene of him demanding she take off her clothes and come play like an animal further tied together the film's wild animal themes.
There is no single moment in Split which is so unnerving than the realization that not only did Casey's uncle have an inappropriate relationship with her, but that after her father's death, he became her sole guardian. Casey's final scene of her in the back of a police car, preparing to return to her abusive life, almost makes it look as if she would have preferred her incarceration with Kevin. Casey gets the bittersweet ending that leaves a VERY nasty taste in your mouth.
While by no means perfect, Split is the thinking man's horror. Just like 10 Cloverfield Lane shocked with its simple premise (for the first 2/3), Split makes the most of its small cast and claustrophobic setting to constantly put you on the edge of your seat. By having McAvoy's multiple personalities, it felt like the girls were fighting a losing battle as they went up against more than just one man. As the film headed toward the introduction of the Beast, all bets were off on what the endgame would be and the horror piled on to a genuinely fright-fuelled finale. Congratulations to Shyamalan's return to form not only as a horror director, but a thriller, psychological torture director, forming a new universe at large. Get out your claws, we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of horror from the Horde, while that in itself is the biggest shock of all!
About the author
Tom is a Manchester-based writer with square eyes and the love of a good pun. Raised on a diet of Jurassic Park, this ’90s boy has VHS flowing in his blood. No topic is too big for this freelancer by day, crime-fighting vigilante by night.