Split (2016 American film)

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Split (2017 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Music by West Dylan Thordson
Cinematography Mike Gioulakis
Edited by Luke Ciarrocchi
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • September 26, 2016 (2016-09-26) (Fantastic Fest)
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[2]
Box office $278.5 million[2]

Split is a 2016 American psychological horror film written, co-produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan[3] and starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley. The film follows a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls in an isolated underground facility. One of his darker personalities manifests within his psyche and results in his eventual transformation into a merciless and cannibalistic sociopath with superhuman abilities.

Principal photography began on November 11, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The film premiered at Fantastic Fest on September 26, 2016, and was released in the United States on January 20, 2017, by Universal Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews, with McAvoy's performance earning high praise and some critics labeling it a welcome return for Shyamalan, although some criticized the film for its perceived stigmatization of mental illness. The film grossed $278 million worldwide on a budget of $9 million.

The film is a stand-alone sequel to the 2000 film Unbreakable, which was also written, produced, and directed by Shyamalan, and is the second installment in the Unbreakable series. The film was not marketed as a sequel. The final part of the trilogy, titled Glass, is scheduled to be released in 2019, and will combine the casts and characters of both previous films.


Casey Cooke is an emotionally withdrawn teenager, having been molested as a child by her uncle John, who became her legal guardian after her father's death. While hanging out with her classmates, Claire and Marcia, the three are kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Kevin has been evaluated by psychologist Dr. Karen Fletcher, who discovered that he formed multiple personalities as a means to cope with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother. While Kevin appears otherwise stable, Dr. Fletcher has identified 23 distinct personalities within Kevin; in his mind, these personalities sit in chairs in a room, waiting for their turn "in the light" (controlling Kevin's body) as directed by "Barry", the dominant personality. She has also found that Kevin's physiology changes when a new personality comes into the light. Recently, "Barry" has refused to allow "Dennis" or "Patricia" their turns, in part due to Dennis' tendencies towards bothering underage girls and Patricia's undesirable traits, and also because both appear to worship "The Beast", a yet-unseen 24th personality. Regardless of which personality is controlling Kevin, Dr. Fletcher can call forth Kevin's own personality by speaking his full name to him.

Kevin takes the girls to his underground quarters and secures them in a cell. They recognize his dissociative disorder, and Claire attempts to use this against Kevin to escape but is caught by "Dennis" and segregated from the others. Over several days, Kevin leaves them locked up while he goes off to work and attends appointments with Dr. Fletcher. During these meetings, Dr. Fletcher recognizes that "Dennis" has seemingly taken over the dominant personality from "Barry", though he tries to act as "Barry" to fool her. She recalls an incident that "Barry" told her about a month before, where two teenage girls had walked up to him, taken his hands and placed them on their breasts, which may have triggered "Dennis" to take over. Dr. Fletcher suspects that Kevin, as "Dennis", is responsible for the three missing teenagers.

During this time, Marcia also attempts to escape but is caught by "Patricia" and segregated. Casey befriends "Hedwig", a young boy personality of Kevin's; it is later revealed that "Hedwig" has complete control over "the light", and has provided "Dennis" and "Patricia" with control. She gets "Hedwig" to let her out of her cell to see his bedroom, believing that there may be a means of escape through "Hedwig's" window but finds that it is only a drawing of a window. She takes the walkie-talkie from "Hedwig", and uses it to call for help, but the person at the other end of the walkie doesn't believe her, thinking that someone is playing a joke. Before she can convince the person that she is serious, "Patricia" takes over Kevin's body and subdues Casey.

Dr. Fletcher shows up at Kevin's home, where he reveals that "The Beast" is real and that he has met him. Suspicious of "Dennis", Dr. Fletcher feigns needing the bathroom to look around his home, where she finds Claire in her cell, but before she can do anything, "Dennis" catches her, sprays her face with a sedative in an aerosol can, and secures her in a separate room. He then leaves. While out, "The Beast" personality takes over for the first time, giving Kevin super-human abilities, while Claire and Marcia attempt to escape from their cells. Dr. Fletcher regains consciousness long enough to write out Kevin's full name on a piece of paper before "The Beast" returns and kills her. Casey escapes from her cell, only to find that "The Beast" has already attacked and eaten Marcia and watches in horror as he does the same to Claire.

Casey finds Dr. Fletcher's body and her note on the piece of paper. "The Beast" approaches her, but she calls out Kevin's full name, bringing Kevin forth. Upon learning of the situation and realizing that he hasn't been in control of his body for two years, Kevin instructs Casey to kill him with his shotgun. Following this statement, all 24 personalities begin warring for control of "the light", but shortly thereafter "The Beast" personality takes hold again. Casey escapes from his quarters into an underground tunnel and shoots him twice, but the shells have little effect. She locks herself in a small caged area. "The Beast" finds her and is about to pull the bars open to attack her but sees faded scars across her body, a sign of her past emotional turmoil and self-harm. Having previously declared his plans to rid the world of the "untouched", those whose hearts are impure because they have never suffered in their lives, he considers Casey to be "pure" and spares her, disappearing from the tunnels.

Sometime later, Casey is rescued and learns that she was being held at the Philadelphia Zoo, where Kevin had been an employee. Casey is asked by a police officer if she is ready to return home with her uncle. She hesitates to answer. In another hideout, "Dennis", "Patricia", and "Hedwig" exert collective control over Kevin's body and admire the power of "The Beast" and their plans to change the world.

In a diner, several patrons watch the news as a reporter states that Kevin's personalities have earned him the nickname "The Horde". A female patron notes the similarity between Kevin and a wheelchair-using criminal who was incarcerated 15 years earlier. As she tries to remember the nickname he was given, the man sitting next to her tells her that it was "Mr. Glass".


  • James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb / The Horde: a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder (DID), who has 23 prominent personalities, each with something peculiar or dangerous for his captives. Kevin's body chemistry changes with each personality, resulting in his 24th and final personality, "The Beast": a grotesque and cannibalistic sociopath with super-human abilities, such as inhuman strength, enhanced speed and agility, along with near-invulnerability and unnatural mobility, which imbued him with the ability to scale walls, but resulted in his insatiable hunger for raw human flesh.
  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, a young girl with a traumatic past and a history of self-harm, who is kidnapped by "Dennis", one of Kevin's personalities, to be sacrificed to the Beast.
    • Izzie Coffey plays a 5-year-old Casey.
  • Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher, a psychologist who attempts to help Kevin with his DID, and believes that DID can, in extreme cases, cause physiological changes.
  • Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit, Mr. Benoit’s daughter, a classmate of Casey and a friend of Marcia, who is also kidnapped by "Dennis" to be sacrificed to the Beast.
  • Jessica Sula as Marcia, a classmate of Casey and a friend of Claire, who is also kidnapped by "Dennis" to be sacrificed to the Beast.
  • Brad William Henke as John, Casey's uncle.
  • Sebastian Arcelus as Mr. Cooke, Casey's father.
  • Neal Huff as Mr. Benoit, Claire's father.
  • Kim Director as Hannah
  • Lyne Renée as Academic Moderator
  • M. Night Shyamalan as Jai, a security guard in Dr. Fletcher's apartment building.
  • Bruce Willis as David Dunn (uncredited cameo)


Shyamalan conceived the idea for Split years before he actually wrote the screenplay. He explained, "In this case I had written the character a while ago, and I had written out a few scenes of it, so I even had dialogue written out, which is really unusual for me. It sat there for a long time, and I really don't have a clear reason why I didn't pull the trigger earlier. But this felt like the perfect time to do it, with the type of movies I'm doing now, and the type of tones I am interested in – humor and suspense."[4]

On October 2, 2015, James McAvoy was cast in the film to play the lead, replacing Joaquin Phoenix.[5] On October 12, 2015, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, and Haley Lu Richardson were added to the cast.[6] On October 27, 2015, Universal Pictures came on board to release the film and titled it as Split.[7]

The character of Kevin had been in one of the early drafts of Shyamalan's Unbreakable, but he had pulled the character out, stating there were balancing issues at that time. With Split, he brought in some of the scenes he had written for Unbreakable around Kevin.[8] The film ends with the appearance of Bruce Willis's character, David Dunn, from Unbreakable, who makes a comment in reference to the previous film, placing Unbreakable and Split within the same narrative universe. Shyamalan requested permission to incorporate the character from Walt Disney Studios, which had produced Unbreakable.[9] Shyamalan met with Sean Bailey about the use of the character; they came to a gentlemen's agreement where Bailey agreed to allow the use of the character in the film without a fee and Shyamalan promised that Disney would be involved in a sequel, if developed.[9] Shyamalan was very secretive of Willis' involvement in Split, removing the final scene from the film for test audiences.[8][8]

Principal photography on the film began on November 11, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[10][11] Reshoots occurred in June 2016.[12] During post-production, Sterling K. Brown's role as Shaw, Dr. Fletcher's neighbor, was cut from the film, as Shyamalan felt that his scenes were ultimately unnecessary.[13] McAvoy broke his hand in a scene where he was supposed to punch a metal door, but missed the soft section of the door he intended to hit.[14]

Release and reception[edit]

Split had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 26, 2016.[15] It also screened at the AFI Fest on November 15, 2016.[16][17] The film was theatrically released on January 20, 2017, in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.[18]

Split was released on Digital HD on April 4, 2017, and Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on April 18, 2017, by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[19]

Box office[edit]

Split grossed $138.3 million in the United States and Canada and $140.2 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $278.5 million, against a production budget of $9 million.[2] Deadline Hollywood calculated the film made a net profit of $68.2 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues.[20]

In North America, the film was released alongside the openings of xXx: Return of Xander Cage, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and The Founder, as well as the wide expansions of 20th Century Women, and was initially expected to gross $20–25 million from 3,038 theaters in its opening weekend.[21] The film made $2 million from its Thursday night previews at 2,295 theaters, doubling the $1 million made by Shyamalan's The Visit in 2015, and $14.6 million on its first day, increasing weekend estimates to $30–37 million.[22] It ended up opening to $40.2 million, finishing first at the box office.[23] In its second weekend the film made $26.3 million, again topping the box office.[24] In its third week the film again topped the box office with $14.6 million, becoming the first Shyamalan film to finish at number one for three straight weeks since The Sixth Sense in 1999.[25]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 76% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus states "Split serves as a dramatic tour de force for James McAvoy in multiple roles – and finds writer-director M. Night Shyamalan returning resoundingly to thrilling form."[26] Metacritic reports a weighted average score 62 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[27] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale,[28] while comScore reported filmgoers gave it a 78% overall positive score and a 54% "definite recommend".[29]

Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian gave the film four stars out of five, stating it to be a "masterful blend of Hitchcock, horror and therapy session."[30] Also writing for The Guardian, Steve Rose had strong praise for McAvoy's role, saying that "he does a fine and fearless job of selling his character's varied personae." He commended his ability to switch personalities in one scene toward the end of the film, saying: "It's a little like the T-1000 at the end of Terminator 2. But there are no special effects here, just acting."[31]

The film has been referred to as the first supervillain origin story; the first time a film has been completely devoted to the origins of a villain as opposed to the origins of the superhero.[32][33]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
London Film Critics' Circle January 22, 2017 Young British/Irish Performer of the Year Anya Taylor-Joy (also for Morgan and The Witch) Nominated [34]
MTV Movie & TV Awards May 7, 2017 Best Actor in a Movie James McAvoy Nominated [35]
Saturn Awards June 28, 2017 Best Thriller Film Split Nominated [36]
Best Supporting Actress Betty Buckley Nominated
Teen Choice Awards August 13, 2017 Choice Movie: Villain James McAvoy Nominated [37]
San Diego Film Critics Society December 11, 2017 Best Actor James McAvoy Won [38]
Seattle Film Critics Society December 18, 2017 Villain of the Year James McAvoy (as Dennis & The Horde) Won [40]
Casting Society of America January 18, 2018 Studio or Independent – Drama Douglas Aibel, Diane Heery, Jason Loftus and Henry Russell Bergstein Nominated [41]
Empire Awards March 18, 2018 Best Horror Split Nominated [42]


Split garnered controversy for its alleged stigmatization of mental illness.[44] The Australian mental health charity SANE stated, "Films like this are going to reinforce a false stereotypical notion that people living with complex mental illnesses are inherently dangerous and violent."[45] The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation issued a statement debunking the stereotype of dangerous dissociative identity disorder (DID) patients, and criticizing how the film was made "at the expense of a vulnerable population that struggles to be recognized and receive the effective treatment that they deserve."[46] Some with dissociative identity disorder spoke out against the film (and its marketing) for the representation of multiple personalities as frightening and/or violent, including in an open letter to the director.[47][48]


Shyamalan expressed hope for a third installment following Split, saying, "I hope [a third Unbreakable film happens]. The answer is yes. I'm just such a wimp sometimes. I don't know what's going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I'm going to start writing. [I have] a really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I've won already. I'm almost there but I'm not quite there."[49] He explained that the final scene from Split was David's realization that Mr. Glass from the first film was right; there are superpowered people in the world.[50] Disney, which produced Unbreakable through its Touchstone Pictures division, is expected to be a production partner and have financial participation with Universal for the sequel.[9]

After positive reviews of Split and its critical and financial success, Shyamalan confirmed his next film will be the sequel film that follows the Unbreakable-Split narrative, the final part of the "Eastrail 177 Trilogy"[51][52][53][54] In April 2017, Shyamalan revealed that he was nearing completion on the script for the next film.[55] On April 26, 2017, Shyamalan revealed on his Twitter page that the script was completed, and that the sequel will be titled Glass,[56][57] which is scheduled to be released on January 18, 2019.[58]

The cast will include returning actors from both films: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard from Unbreakable; and James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy from Split will all reprise their respective roles in Glass.[58][59] Sarah Paulson will be joining the cast as a new character.[60] The film will focus on Dunn (Willis) chasing down Crumb (McAvoy) in his Beast persona.[59]

Following a week of rehearsals, principal production commenced on October 2, 2017 in Philadelphia.[61]


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External links[edit]