Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: M. Night Shyamalan's Split

of 7 viewers "Liked" "Split" (2017, USA)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

Trash - "A few years ago I came up with a test for myself while watching a movie: Would I rather know how this ends or be alone in a bar drinking a beer? And if the answer was beer, I'd walk out. Only a few films have failed my beer-test, and although Split was one of them, I was trapped in the middle of a packed theater so I stuck it out through two miserable hours of condescending, inorganic bullshit. Instead of doing the thing that would have been fun and entertaining, giving us a movie where we watched James McAvoy go nuts playing 23 different characters, we get a small fraction of his supposed personalities, and the movie commits to spending most of its run-time explaining, justifying, and setting up its logic and ending. It's annoying and bad — I am not interested in the faux-psychology of a stupid premise. And M. Night's style, rehashed from Signs, of writing set up that all obnoxiously ties together and pays off doesn't make for a lean screenplay, it is methodical and unsatisfying. The message it tells about trauma is offensively misguided. And the tone is gibberish. But the worst part is everything about this movie feels intentional, and the intent is dumb." - 1 Star

The Berkeley Blazer - "This is a film where James McAvoy plays a character with twenty-something personalities that all fight with each other over what they should do with the three girls some of them have kidnapped. Let that sink in. It’s okay, give yourself a bit of pause. Silence your cell phone and go find a quiet place to let your stupefaction settle. Okay good, now I’m assuming most if not all of our culturally literate and generally astute dear readership are now aware that the premise of this film is dumb, nay, even vapid. Whatever pretensions Split has as a serious film, you need to check your expectations for insight into the human condition at the door if you’re going to get anything out of this movie. Unlike voting for a president, abandoning critical thought at the door won’t have disastrous consequences if you just remember to take your thinking caps back out on the way out. That preamble out of the way, I cannot deny how much I enjoyed the shit out of this movie. James McAvoy is endearing and hilarious; his performance will not and should not win any awards, but it certainly won my heart. No, he doesn’t make this overall character remotely believable, but since I had no suspension of disbelief to be interrupted I managed to take deep enjoyment from the spectacle one of our finest actors manage to not make us cringe (with a couple of thankfully very brief exceptions). However hackneyed the characters are on paper, McAvoy makes them work enough to be engaging, and his performances aren’t the only ones that I appreciated. Our lovely protagonist played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Morgan) brings quiet mystique and genuine pathos to a role that is never less than captivating, and her dynamic with the other two girls gave an interesting contrast. The other performance I’d like to spotlight is actress Betty Buckley’s Dr. Fletcher, an elderly psychiatrist who is an expert on split personality disorders (ha!) who, despite the absurdities that flow from her mouth from time to time, is convincing as someone who genuinely cares about her very special patient and of all the characters in the film, I was most apprehensive about where her trajectory was going. I must give Shyamalan credit: through brilliant casting and overall solid direction he kept me engaged and delighted through most of the film. Pacing, tension building, framing, were solid and at times inspired in little moments. There’s a devilishly, delightfully frustrating moment with a coat hanger I hope you’ll appreciate. That being said, this film has a few problems: some awkward attitudes about trauma and abuse that range from insensitive to downright offensive, unsatisfying conclusions, an epilogue that becomes jarringly stupid. Whatever cohesiveness and emotional power this film happens to achieve is deflated by this goddamn epilogue and despite my own guffaws I still haven’t lost the incredulity that it actually happened." - 4 Stars

The Impostor - "M. Night Shyamalan returns to the director's chair for the thousandth time for dark thriller Split. While the creatures of the Overlook were split after watching this, I genuinely enjoyed it. While I do like 2015's The Visit more, Split kept me guessing and I like films like that. James McAvoy did an amazing job playing multiple personalities, sometimes more than one in one single scene that came off quite convincing. My favorite of the personalities shown is definitely Hedwig which added a bit of comedy to the film and was fun to watch. Et cetera. The runtime did drag a bit at times and I was hoping for a bigger ending with all its buildup that was set in place. Overall one of the first January horror films I actually enjoyed in a long time. It isn't a perfect film but I'd definitely recommend it." - 3.5 Stars

Clark Little - "M.Night Shyamalan has done it again. Lured me into another one of his movies with the threat of entertainment only to negate that threat and charge me 12 U.S. dollars for a nap. Unfortunately, James McAvoy gives the performance of his career. I use “unfortunately” because without his work, this film is another forgotten Shyamalan film. McAvoy’s commitment to a rather shallow, pedestrian, mentally afflicted person is the only wave of consequence in an otherwise tepid sea of backwash." - 2 Stars

Lord Battle - "M. Night has rewritten Spiderman's origin story. In this new version Peter Parker gets his powers from being raped as a child. To be fair Split is only offensive when you think about it a little and as the film plays out, it's very entertaining (thanks to Mr. McAvoy). My problem with this film isn't with the DID central story or the twist, but with the "reveal" that changes everything in a way that I feels cheapens it overall. Also in a post screening discussion, it came up that M. Night had repurposed a lot of the gags from The Visit and redressed them for Split and for the most part I agree." - 3 Stars

Huntress - "Split is not a bad movie. It looks good, is filled with some pretty real feeling characters, and showcases James McAvoy’s amazing range of character acting. It did feel just like a drama for over half the movie, and had me wondering why this was even classified as horror at all, when it really just belonged on the Lifetime channel. But my queries were addressed and the movie amped up, even made strides to win me over, but I just could shake the image of M Night Shyamalan patting himself on the back whenever there was an extended monologue or conversation defending the less popular theories about dissociative identity disorder. Like he wasn’t making just a horror movie, but an in intellectual’s horror movie. Trying to at least. From there I just couldn’t help furrowing my brow at a lot of details. Perhaps I’m biased? That being said, I’d probably watch it again." - 2.5 Stars

Randy The Reverberator - "At the start of Split, it seemed as if M Night Shyamalon set out to make an independent, taut, "stuck in a room" thriller, and maybe abandon the twists we've grown to expect from him. What we get is... somewhere in between. At times it works, and James McAvoy's performance(s) are a fascinating thing to watch. However, by the end I was somewhat bored and disappointed. Also, is there such a thing as Shyamalan fan service?* - 2 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

I Lord Battle have had an alliance with the lucha-conspirator, The Great Hornito for several earth cycles now and have been exposed to the idea of Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder for some time. It's incredibly interesting to see a mass audience exposed to the idea through a studio film, especially one helmed by a household name like M. Night Shyamalan since DID had been a fringe theory at best for years.

Movies such as Split can be extremely damaging, argues Dr Simone Reinders, a neuroscientist studying DID at King’s College London in collaboration with universities in the Netherlands. “They make it seem as if patients with DID are extremely violent and prone to doing bad things. This is actually not true and it very badly misrepresents the psychiatric disorder. Individuals with DID definitely do not have a tendency to be violent; more a tendency to hide their mental health problems. I’m very concerned about the effects that the movie will have for patients with DID, and how the general public will now see these patients. There’s already a lot of stigma and scepticism concerning this specific disorder.”
- Excerpt from The Guardian

To understand the conspiracy side of DID we first need to know about MKUltra.

Project MKUltra – sometimes referred to as the CIA's mind control program – is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects, at times illegal, designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture, in order to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control. Organized through the Scientific Intelligence Division of the CIA, the project coordinated with the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Army's Chemical Corps.
The operation began in the early 1950s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, further curtailed in 1967, and officially halted in 1973. The program engaged in many illegal activities, including the use of unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects, which led to controversy regarding its legitimacy. MKUltra used numerous methodologies to manipulate people's mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosissensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as other forms of psychological torture.

As the story goes, MKUltra was specifically used to cause DID in the test subjects, in turn making them easier to turn into sex slaves or sleeper agents like in The Manchurian Candidate. Below I've had The Great Hornito share one of his favorite short docs on popular theories of MKUltra's effects on celebrities. (This 10min doc has been screened for entertainment value and is very watchable)


The next video is of Tila Tequila being possessed by her alter-ego Jane Cordovez. Jane is a personality that Tila talks a lot about. I personally think she's scratching and clawing for attention and fame but you should definitely watch and make your own judgment call... then comment and share your thoughts.

-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized at Century Theatres for an opening night screening on 1/20/2017
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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