Split (2016 American film)

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Split (2017 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byM. Night Shyamalan
Produced by
Written byM. Night Shyamalan
Music byWest Dylan Thordson
CinematographyMike Gioulakis
Edited byLuke Ciarrocchi
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 26, 2016 (2016-09-26) (Fantastic Fest)
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million[2][3]
Box office$278.5 million[3]

Split is a 2016 American psychological horror thriller film and the second installment in the Unbreakable trilogy written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan[4] and starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley. The film follows a man with 24 different personalities who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls in an isolated underground facility.

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 to form for Shyamalan, although some criticized the film for its perceived stigmatization of mental illness.[5][6][7] The film grossed $278 million worldwide on a budget of $9 million.

The film is a standalone sequel to the 2000 film Unbreakable, which was also written, produced and directed by Shyamalan.[8][9][10][11][12] The film was not marketed as a sequel, and was a stealth sequel, instead saving the revelation for a scene featuring Bruce Willis reprising his Unbreakable role in an uncredited cameo. Split is noted as the first solo supervillain origin movie. It is also Shyamalan's first sequel. The final part of the trilogy, titled Glass, was released in January 2019, combining the casts and characters of both previous films.


Just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID), has identified 23 distinct alters formed due to childhood abuse and abandonment. The alter who is most commonly fronting, "Barry", controls when and which of the others can front. Recently, "Barry" has not allowed "Dennis" or "Patricia" to have control due to his tendency to harass young girls and her belief in a mysterious entity called "The Beast" who plans to rid the world of the "impure", those who have not suffered. His visiting therapist Dr. Karen Fletcher recognizes in their sessions that "Dennis" has recently displaced "Barry" as the dominant alter and is pretending to be him.

"Dennis" kidnaps three teenage girls who were waiting in the car of Claire's father to ride home from a birthday party: Casey Cooke, Claire Benoit, and Marcia, in the car of Claire's father. He imprisons the girls in an underground cell at the Philadelphia Zoo before shifting into a female alter "Patricia", entering wearing a dress, and a nine-year-old boy alter "Hedwig". The girls try to escape, such as going through the vents, taking advantage of Kevin's weaker alters like "Patricia" and "Hedwig", and communicating with another individual via a walkie-talkie, but all attempts fail.

"Dennis" boards an empty train car, which allows "The Beast", Kevin's 24th alter which has enhanced physical abilities, to take over. "The Beast" goes back to Kevin's headquarters where Fletcher goes to visit the man, and kills Marcia, Claire, and Fletcher. "The Beast" approaches Casey, but she calls out Kevin's full name, bringing Kevin forth. Upon learning of the situation and realizing that he has not been in control for two years, a horrified Kevin begs Casey to kill him with a shotgun he has hidden. This prompts all 24 personalities to fight for control and "Patricia" is the victor.

Casey is told that "Kevin" has been made to sleep far away, and he will not awaken now even if his name is called. They once again let "The Beast" take hold. Casey retrieves the shotgun and cartridges before escaping into a tunnel, where she shoots "The Beast" twice causing only minor wounds. As "The Beast" is about to murder Casey, he aborts and goes back into "Dennis" after noticing she is "pure"; she had been molested as a child by her uncle and legal guardian, John, before and after her father's demise. With "Dennis" sparing her life, Casey is rescued by the police.

In another hideout, "Dennis", "Patricia", and "Hedwig" discuss the power of "The Beast" and their plans to change the world. In Silk City Diner, several patrons watch a news report on The Beast's crimes, with the correspondent mentioning that his numerous alters have earned him the nickname "The Horde". A waitress notes the similarity to a criminal in a wheelchair who was incarcerated fifteen years earlier and who also received a nickname.[a] As she tries to remember it, the man sitting next to her, David Dunn, says it was "Mr. Glass".


  • James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb / Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / Barry / Orwell / Jade / The Horde: a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder (DID), who has 23 prominent personalities, each possessing a peculiarity or posing a danger to his captives. His body chemistry changes with each personality, resulting in his 24th and final personality, "The Beast", a grotesque sociopath and insatiable cannibal with superhuman capabilities, such as inhuman bodily strength, enhanced speed and agility, along with near-invulnerability and unnatural mobility, to the point of being able to scale walls and ceilings
  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, a teenage 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 as 5 year-old Casey
  • Betty Buckley as 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, 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.
  • Sebastian Arcelus as Casey Cooke's father.
  • Brad William Henke as John Cooke, Casey's paternal uncle.
  • Neal Huff as Mr. Benoit, Claire Benoit'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.
  • Rosemary Howard as Penelope Crumb, Kevin's mother.
  • Bruce Willis as David Dunn (uncredited cameo)


Shyamalan conceived the idea for Split years before he 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."[13]

On October 2, 2015, James McAvoy was cast in the film to play the lead, replacing Joaquin Phoenix.[14] On October 12, 2015, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, and Haley Lu Richardson were added to the cast.[15] On October 27, 2015, Universal Pictures came on board to release the film and titled it as Split.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[18] Shyamalan was very secretive of Willis' involvement in Split, removing the final scene from the film for test audiences. The cameo was shown at the 2016 Fantastic Fest and 2016 AFI Fest months before its theatrical release.[17]

As with The Visit, Shyamalan funded the film himself.[19] Principal photography on the film began on November 11, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[20][21] Reshoots occurred in June 2016.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]


Split had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 26, 2016.[25] It also screened at the AFI Fest on November 15, 2016.[26][27] The film was theatrically released on January 20, 2017, in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.[28]

Split was released on Digital HD on April 4, 2017 and on Blu-Ray, DVD, and On-Demand on April 18, 2017 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[29]


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][3] Deadline Hollywood calculated the film made a net profit of $68.2 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues.[30] It had a gross profit of $105.1 million, with over 2,000% return on investment (ROI), making it the most profitable film of 2017.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33] It ended up opening to $40.2M, finishing first at the box office.[34] In its second weekend the film made $26.3 million, again topping the box office.[35] 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.[36]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 77% based on 308 reviews, with an average rating of 6.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "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."[37] Metacritic reports a weighted average score 62 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[38] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale,[39] while comScore reported filmgoers gave it a 78% overall positive score and a 54% "definite recommend."[40]

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".[41] Also writing for The Guardian, Steve Rose had strong praise for McAvoy, opining that the actor "does a fine and fearless job of selling his character's varied personae". He commended McAvoy's 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."[42]

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.[43][44] It has been described as Hollywood's first stealth sequel,[19] with The Hollywood Reporter calling it "one of the most shocking surprises in cinematic history".[45]

Reaction in the mental health community[edit]

The film has been poorly received in the mental illness and dissociative identity disorder communities. Mental health advocates warn that the film stigmatizes dissociative identity disorder and may directly affect those living with it.[46] "You are going to upset and potentially exacerbate symptoms in thousands of people who are already suffering," psychiatrist Dr. Garrett Marie Deckel, a DID specialist at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, said immediately after seeing the film. In contrast with McAvoy's character, Deckel said, people with DID, who may represent over 1% of Americans, are rarely violent. Research has shown that they are far more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others. But movies tend to portray only "the most extreme aspects" of the disorder, she said. This can misrepresent a form of mental health that is not well understood by the lay public, and even some psychiatrists, she said.

Amelia Joubert, an 18-year-old living with Dissociative Identity Disorder said she thinks Split is having a larger effect on younger people with DID; they're less familiar with older films, such as Psycho and Identity, that also contain violent characters with multiple personalities. She is afraid that Split may deter young people from coming out and seeking help. Joubert said that she is not against people seeing the film but that she hopes for more education about the realities and misconceptions of DID.[47]

In a statement about the movie, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) cited a soon-to-be-released study of 173 people with DID. The researchers found that only 3 percent were charged with an offense, 1.8 percent were fined, and less than 1 percent were in jail over a six-month span. No convictions or probations were reported in that time period. And in an open letter to the director, several Plural Activists said "Split represents yet another gross parody of us based on fear, ignorance and sensationalism, only much worse."[48]

Dr. Sheldon Itzkowitz, a New York-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, said he had not seen the movie — and doesn’t plan to. “What concerns me is how the film may inadvertently demonize people who are truly suffering. DID is a disorder that has its etiology in the worst form of human suffering — the abuse of innocent children,” Itzkowitz told Healthline. He said many of his patients with DID are highly functioning people whose friends and co-workers don’t know how much the person may be affected by their condition. When films and stories “vilify and demonize mental illness in general, and DID in particular,” the viewer does not understand how hard it can be for that person to survive, he added.[49]


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 [50]
MTV Movie & TV Awards May 7, 2017 Best Actor in a Movie James McAvoy Nominated [51]
Saturn Awards June 28, 2017 Best Thriller Film Split Nominated [52]
Best Supporting Actress Betty Buckley Nominated
Teen Choice Awards August 13, 2017 Choice Movie: Villain James McAvoy Nominated [53]
San Diego Film Critics Society December 11, 2017 Best Actor James McAvoy Won [54]
Seattle Film Critics Society December 18, 2017 Villain of the Year James McAvoy (as Dennis & The Horde) Won [56]
Casting Society of America January 18, 2018 Studio or Independent – Drama Douglas Aibel, Diane Heery, Jason Loftus, and Henry Russell Bergstein Nominated [57]
Empire Awards March 18, 2018 Best Horror Split Nominated [58]
Cahiers du Cinéma 2017 Best Film M. Night Shyamalan Nominated [60]
Central Ohio Film Critics Association 2018 Best Actor James McAvoy Nominated [60]
CinEuphoria Awards 2018 Best Actor - Audience Award James McAvoy Won [60]
Young Entertainer Awards 2018 Best Supporting Young Actress - Feature Film Izzie Coffey Won [60]


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."[61] 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.[62] 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.[18]

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 Unbreakable trilogy.[63][64][65][66] In April 2017, Shyamalan revealed that he was nearing completion on the script for the next film.[67] On April 26, 2017, Shyamalan revealed on his Twitter page that the script was completed, and that the sequel will be titled Glass,[68][69] which was released on January 18, 2019.[70]

The cast included the 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 reprised their respective roles in Glass.[70][71] Sarah Paulson joined the cast as a new character.[72] The film will focus on Dunn (Willis) chasing down Crumb (McAvoy) in his Beast persona all the while being embroiled in an orchestration by Price (Jackson).[71]

Following a week of rehearsals, principal production commenced on October 2, 2017 in Philadelphia.[73]


  1. ^ As depicted in the 2000 film Unbreakable.


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External links[edit]