With M. Night Shyamalan's new film Split making over $40 million during its opening weekend and receiving rave reviews from both critics and moviegoers, it's safe to say that the movie is his long-overdue comeback.
Back when The Sixth Sense came out, everybody thought Shyamalan would be the new Alfred Hitchcock, but his career quickly fizzled out. Now, though, he's finally fulfilled his promise, because Split is like a modern take on 1960's Psycho, which mesmerized audiences much like Split is doing now.
- The True Stories Behind 'Split': 10 Famous Real-Life Cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder
- These M. Night Shyamalan Movies Could All Be In A Shared Universe
In both, we see a character driven to dangerous behavior due to a dissociative identity disorder. There are some striking similarities between the two films, even through they are distinctly two different stories.
Some mild spoilers for Split follow, though not the big twist.
1. Dissociative Identity Disorder Is At The Core Of Split And Psycho
While there is still controversy over whether or not this illness actually exists, both films take their ques from real-life cases that have kept the medical field intrigued over many decades. (Because Split has recently been called out for being insensitive to people struggling with dissociative identity disorder, it's important to remember that the film is for entertainment purposes — most people who struggle with this kind of psychological condition are not dangerous.)
In Psycho, Norman Bates only has two identities that he struggles with (Norman and his mother Norma). Norman is an intelligent yet awkward and painfully shy young man who runs a motel located by the side of a highway. His other personality, Norma, is a reincarnation of his mother; this personality gets very upset when Norman shows any sexual attraction towards other women, and eventually becomes a murderer.
In Split, Kevin has a shocking 23 personalities — and a 24th is about to emerge. Sadly, the film only lets us take a peak at a handful of those personalities, leaving us to imagine what the others are like. All of the personalities are completely different. While Patricia is a middle-aged, motherly figure, Dennis is a germaphobe with pedophilic tendencies. So many personalities coming out of the same body is a truly extraordinary thing to witness, even if it is just a movie.
2. They're Violent To The Core
Both Split and Psycho explore what could happen if a dangerous personality flourishes without a sane personality suppressing it. In Psycho, Norma is allowed to take over Norman as the dominate personality, and — without a psychiatrist to intervene — this leads him to commit terrible crimes. The shower murder scene in particular stunned audiences back in the '60s.
In Split, Kevin is clearly seeing a psychiatrist. However, his personalities have carefully controlled who the psychiatrist gets to see, which makes it impossible to merge all of the personalities together. The 24th personality is clearly the most violent of all, but the others commit terrible acts as well, just to please him.
Both movies are psychological thrillers, and what is a psychological thriller without violence? Although Psycho pushed the limits of 1960s cinema, Split is able to display its violence in a much more brutal fashion.
3. Mother Complexes And Child Abuse
Apparently, nobody in this kind of thriller makes it through life without being at least a little traumatized by their mother. Kevin and Norma both develop deep psychological issues stemming from the abuse they suffered at the hands of their moms.
While Psycho hints at the emotional abuse Norman receives from Norma, Split actually discusses the child abuse openly. A flashback is even provided to convey to viewers just how bad the abuse was. With moviegoers having a stronger stomach for such sensitive topics these days, it is no wonder Split decided to tackle the same topic but with much more honesty and brutality.
4. They Both Have A+ Performances And Cinematagrophy
Both films feature incredible acting! Anthony Perkins received endless praise for his role as the emotionally tortured Norman. James McAvoy is receiving high praise as well for bringing several distinct personalities to the big screen.
The cinematography in both is likewise excellent. Alfred Hitchcock was the king of intimate closeups that allowed you to feel as if you truly knew the character you were looking at so closely; M. Night Shyamalan was considered by many to be a modern-day Alfred Hitchcock when he first started making movies. With striking camera work, perfectly suspenseful music, and edge-of-your-seat dialogue, there is no questioning that Split has returned Shyamalan to his '90s and early 2000s glory.