A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Split is a smart, satisfying horror thriller from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan. It's about a man (James McAvoy) with multiple personalities (aka dissociative identity disorder). Violence and scariness are the big issues here. Characters die, women are kidnapped and hurt, and a young girl is abused by her uncle (though there's not a lot of gore or horror, and much takes place off screen). Characters fight; one is hit with a chair, and others are threatened with baseball bats and knives. A body is briefly shown with its stomach ripped open. Rifles and shotguns are seen and sometimes fired; characters hunt deer. Teen girls are forced to remove some of their clothes, revealing their bras, panties, and other underthings. There are also spoken sexual references, as well as infrequent swearing (including one "f--k," plus "s--t," "ass," and more) and some social drinking by adults.
What's the story?
In SPLIT, teen birthday girl Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) is finishing up a party with her friend Marcia (Jessica Sula). But her "mercy invite," troubled Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), can't find a ride home. Claire's dad prepares to drive them, but then a mysterious man (James McAvoy) kidnaps all three girls and locks them in a windowless room. They notice that he acts strangely, showing different personalities and holding conversations with himself. Unbeknownst to the girls, the man goes to see his therapist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who tries to communicate with his 23 personalities. But he warns her of the coming of "the Beast," an all-powerful monster that could be a twenty-fourth -- and who might just have an appetite for teen girls.
Is it any good?
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan launches a full-fledged comeback with this tense, satisfying horror-thriller. Split is refreshingly infused with thoughtful ideas and sly suggestion, rather than gore or brutality. Shyamalan has had quite an up-and-down career; in 2016 he tested the waters with the small-scale The Visit, and he now makes a bold return to his Sixth Sense and Unbreakable glory days. Split actually resembles the latter film in some ways, rooted in real-world theories about the elastic limits of human possibility.
As ever, the director's camerawork is above reproach; he creates a sinister, windowless, underground lair, smoothly snaking with corridors, dingy doors and pipes, and harsh pools of light. His writing is subtler here than in other films, with a few odd touches but confident overall. Best of all are the two leads: Joy (The Witch) has an awesome, ethereal presence, and McAvoy conveys at least a half-dozen of his character's personalities with an uncanny, haunting clarity. Split is a smart movie that will undoubtedly leave viewers thinking -- and discussing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? Why or why not? What tools and tricks do filmmakers use to scare viewers? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
How does Split compare to other movies about dissociative identity disorder (multiple-personality disorder)?
Do you believe the human mind is capable of asserting control over the body, possibly correcting and curing diseases and disorders or gaining strength?
How does Split compare to Shyamalan's other movies? How is it similar? How is it different? What is he known for?
- In theaters: January 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 18, 2017
- Cast: James McAvoy, Haley Lu Richardson, Anya Taylor-Joy
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.