Split is a 2016 American psychological horror-thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film is a supervillain origin story set in the Unbreakable universe and is the second installment in the trilogy. The film stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley, and follows Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 23 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 and was a massive financial success, grossing $274 million worldwide on a budget of $9 million.
Three teenagers, Claire, Marcia, and outsider Casey, are kidnapped and held captive by "Dennis", one of 23 personalities present in the mind of Kevin Wendell Crumb, a victim of childhood abuse diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.
Over the years, Kevin has been treated by his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher, and appears stable: within his mind, all of his personalities sit in chairs in a room, waiting for their turn "in the light", i.e. controlling the body, while "Barry" controls who gets to go in the light. Two personalities, "Dennis" and "Patricia", are kept out because of Dennis's voyeuristic tendencies and obsessive–compulsive disorder, and both personalities' worshiping of "The Beast", a rumored 24th personality. The three girls realize Kevin's nature when they meet "Patricia", who dresses as a woman. Casey seeks to befriend "Hedwig", a personality that claims to be a nine-year-old boy, who confides that the girls will be sacrificed to "The Beast". He says that he stole control over the light from "Barry" and was persuaded to help "Dennis" and "Patricia". When Claire attempts to escape, "Dennis" locks her in a separate cell.
"Dennis" masquerades as "Barry" and attends a meeting with Fletcher, but she realizes that "Dennis" and "Patricia" have supplanted "Barry" as the dominant personality. Marcia tries to escape next but is caught and also placed in a different cell. Casey continues to befriend "Hedwig", having earlier heard him mention a window in his bedroom. "Dennis" and Fletcher talk about Kevin's father, who abandoned Kevin as a child. The personalities began manifesting to help Kevin cope with the abuse he was subjected to by his mother, who suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. They also talk about how a month previously, two girls had placed "Dennis'" hands upon their breasts as part of a dare, which Fletcher theorizes is what drove "Dennis" and "Patricia" to take over. Casey persuades "Hedwig" to take her to his bedroom, but she is distraught to learn that the "window" in the bedroom is only a drawing of a window. She radios for help but is subdued by "Patricia".
Casey experiences flashbacks of being molested as a young child by her uncle John, who became her legal guardian after her father's death. Fletcher suspects Kevin is responsible for the kidnappings. She discovers Claire at Kevin's house but is caught, drugged, and locked up by "Dennis", who then becomes "The Beast", manifesting superhuman speed, strength, and agility. Knowing that the only way to call to the real Kevin is to speak his full name, Fletcher writes it on a piece of paper before being killed by "The Beast". "The Beast" then kills and eats Marcia and Claire, while Casey stumbles upon Fletcher's corpse and her note. She briefly calls Kevin to "the light" by speaking his name. Horrified by his actions, Kevin orders Casey to kill him with his shotgun before his other personalities begin to take over. As "The Beast" returns, Casey shoots him, but only lightly injures him. "The Beast" voices his plans to rid the world of the "untouched", those whose hearts are impure because they have never suffered in their lives.
"The Beast" begins to bend apart the bars of the cage in which Casey has locked herself, but then notices numerous old, faded scars on her shoulders and lower torso. He then rejoices in the fact that she is "pure". Concluding that troubled people are exceptional, "The Beast" spares Casey's life and leaves. Casey is rescued by one of Kevin's coworkers and learns she was being held underneath the Philadelphia Zoo, where Kevin worked and lived. Casey is asked by a police officer if she is ready to return home with her uncle. She hesitates, and her final response is not shown. 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, patrons listen to the media coverage of Kevin's crimes, for which he has been nicknamed "The Horde". One of the patrons notes the similarity between Kevin and a terrorist who uses a wheelchair and was arrested 15 years prior. The man sitting next to her is revealed to be an older David Dunn, who reminds the patron that the terrorist's name was "Mr. Glass".
- James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb
- Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke
- Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher
- Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit
- Jessica Sula as Marcia
- Brad William Henke as John
- Sebastian Arcelus as Mr. Cooke
- Neal Huff as Mr. Benoit
- Kim Director as Hannah
- Lyne Renée as Academic Moderator
- M. Night Shyamalan as Jai
- Bruce Willis as David Dunn (uncredited)
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.
On October 2, 2015, James McAvoy was cast in the film to play the lead, replacing Joaquin Phoenix. On October 12, 2015, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, and Haley Lu Richardson were added to the cast. On October 27, 2015, Universal Pictures came on board to release the film and titled it as Split.
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 issue at that time. With Split, he brought in some of the scenes he had written for Unbreakable around Kevin. 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. 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. Shyamalan was very secretive of Willis' involvement in Split, removing the final scene from the film for test audiences. Shyamalan said he would like to make a movie that would combine Unbreakable and Split in the future.
Principal photography on the film began on November 11, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reshoots occurred in June 2016. 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.
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