Secrets of Creating a Psychological Horror Film
How it works
In contemporary society, one of the newest films introduced is “Split”. It is a 2016 American psychological horror film. The main character of the film is Kevin Wendell Crumb who has 23 different identities as a result of a dissociative identity disorder. Kevin experienced past abuse from his mother. Additionally, Kevin kidnaps three girls and holds them hostage in his basement for unknown reasons. He has a psychiatrist who is aware of his different personalities, but she does not know about the three girls he has kidnapped.
During the film, a 24th personality appears called “The Beast”, who appears to develop demon-like superpowers. However, the girls must find ways to escape before it’s too late. Dissociative identity disorder is a real mental illness that affects many people. Following the release of the film, many suggested that the filmmakers were perpetuating a negative stereotype of the condition. Moreover, there are people who live with and experience dissociative identity disorder. Separate identities form inside themselves to escape from trauma. These personalities may have names, traits, mannerisms, and distinctive voices. This creates a sense of different experiences. When they shift personalities, they experience memory gaps. Feeling voices trying to control and possess them, experiencing anxiety and depression. People suffering from multiple personality disorder are described by the National Alliance on Mental Illness as a disorder that forms when someone is trying to escape reality, often because they have experienced a traumatic situation such as abuse.
On the other hand, the film captures an in-depth understanding of all the different personalities, however, most of these personalities have an obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorder. These types of disorders are characterized by an emphasis on cleanliness and neatness. Kevin’s psychiatrist believes these people possess superpowers. She considers them unnatural and special, and notes that inpiduals with DID disorder generally have superior intellectual capacities than inpiduals without it. Moreover, one of his personalities portrays a woman. This caused issues when a Care2 petition was introduced, claiming that “Split” is transphobic and offers a harmful narrative surrounding mental illness. Nevertheless, the movie does not contribute to society’s better understanding of dissociative identity disorder. Instead, it only adds to the existing stigma surrounding mental illness. The film may demonize those who are truly suffering. The film portrays people with DID as monstrous, thus reinforcing stigma and misunderstanding. In reality, cases of alternate personalities turning violent are incredibly rare.Portrayals of evil behaviour are non-existent, thus “Split” brings a regressive representation of gender identity and mental illness to the public. As a result, the film stigmatizes mental disorders, trivializes complex mental issues and suggests that DID is not something to be trivialized. It also reinforces the inaccurate and harmful notion that people living with complex mental issues should be feared. The film ends without attempting to humanize DID; there are no closing statements about the mental illness.
A variety of different problems come across when representing mental illnesses throughout media. It has been concluded that many on-screen depictions of mental illness have been wrong. A psychotherapist from New York, Elisabeth Howell, concluded that the film raised the potential for dangerous attitudes to emerge and for people with illnesses to be damaged. The movie suggests that people with dissociative identity disorder could be violent, but many experts suggest that people diagnosed with this specific mental health problem are more likely to hurt themselves. As a result, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation conducted research on 173 people with dissociative identity disorder who are constantly coping with unbearable trauma. The study concluded that 3% of people are charged with an offense, 1.8% are fined and less than 1% were in jail over a six-month span with no convictions or probations. This shows that people with DID disorder are no risk to the community; however, most inpiduals with chronic and severe dissociative identity disorder report childhood abuse (Freyd, 1996). Other research supports the notion that the film has led to more negative attitudes towards mental illness and healthcare. The media is fascinated with mental illness as a cause of violence; in addition, the media depiction of DID is sensationalized. They depict treatment that would be considered unethical. The main aim of Hollywood is to primarily entertain, rather than inform and educate the public, and mental illness becomes the main focus and instrument of horror. Nonetheless, the stigmatization of people with mental health issues becomes violent and dangerous.
In conclusion, Split captures the main elements of the different personalities, but the negative outcome is that the main character is portrayed as a monster. The media enforces stigma by portraying people with mental disorders as unnatural, creating problems for those who are realistically suffering.