Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 57 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 8; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 5.
Our star rating (-15): 4
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
In 1958 Joanne Woodward won a Best Actress Oscar for playing a woman with three multiple personalities in The Three Faces of Eve. That seemed complex enough at the time, but now M. Night Shyamalan gives us a bizarre tale in which a kidnapper has twenty-three personalities, each very, very different from one another—and there’s a twenty-fourth coming that must be even more terrifying than some of these, because the others refer to him as T\” the Beast.” This tale of three kidnapped teenaged girls is not for the faint-hearted!
Claire’s family (Haley Lu Richardson) is hosting a birthday party for her teenaged friends. She tells her father (Neal Huff) that the girl off by herself is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), a classmate she’s invited out of pity because she often gets in trouble with her teachers and gets sent to the principal’s office. At the end of the party, Casey needs a ride home, so Clair’s dad says she can ride with them, as he is giving his daughter’s classmate Marcia (Jessica Sula) a ride. The girls get into the car while the father stows some party left-overs in the back. A man steps in, but he is not the father. The startled girls freeze up. The man, quickly donning a face mask, sprays the girls with a knock-out gas, just as he had the father a moment ago.
The girls wake up in a windowless room. Their captor is Kevin (James McAvoy), who during the course of the film changes into other characters, such as the dominating Dennis, the dress-wearing Patricia, and the 9-year-old naïve, child-like Hedwig. They speak of the coming of “the Beast,” Dennis telling the three girls that they have been captured to “feed” him. The girls make various attempts to escape, but are thwarted each time by one of the personalities.
Interspersed are scenes of psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) meeting with her client Barry, a sketch artist who also is one of the many “persons” of Kevin. An expert in DID (dissociative identity disorder), she gives a lecture via Skype to colleagues, explaining to them persons with DID have individual capabilities, and that they can change their body chemistry by their thoughts. Dr. Fletcher possesses the ability to sense which personality has come to what she says is “the light” when she is interviewing them. Still another series of flashbacks reveal Casey’s sexual abuse by an uncle during hunting trips over a period of time. It is this terrible experience that will affect what “the Beast” does when he at last confronts her.
The ending is so very strange (and chilling) and enigmatic that I invite any who have thought about it to share their comments, and maybe clear up my confusion. This involves a cameo appearance in a diner of a super star and an intriguing tie-in with Mr. Shyamalan’s 2000 film Unbreakable. This is another time in which, as I say at my film workshops, “All of us see more than one of us.”
This review with a set of questions will be in the Nov. 2016 issue of VP.