[This article contains SPOILERS if you have not seen Split.]
Since Split screened in September at Fantastic Fest, people have been buzzing about the ending. While M. Night Shyamalan became famous (and later infamous) for his twist endings, people seemed really excited about what his latest film had to offer, and I was worried that someone would spoil it for me before I got the chance to see the movie.
Thankfully, I made it to my screening still in the dark about any of the twists and turns his latest thriller would take. When the film reveals that its heroine, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), is a cutter, and that’s why she wears a lot of layers, I thought, “Huh. It’s no ‘Bruce Willis was dead the whole time’ but it’s solid.” It’s a good thematic twist that falls in line with what the film is arguing: that suffering creates strength and that those who have been abused are stronger than we’re willing to recognize.
That’s not the movie’s big twist.
Seriously. Major spoilers ahead.
The big twist comes after the plot has been resolved and even a “Split” title card comes on screen. We then cut to a diner where a TV news report tells patrons about the events we’ve just seen, and that Casey’s captor (James McAvoy) is at large and has been dubbed with the name “The Horde”. Three women begin discussing these events and one says, “Wasn’t there a guy in a wheelchair about 15 years ago? What was his name?” David Dunn (Bruce Willis) then leans forward and says, “Mr. Glass.” The camera then lingers on Dunn’s face, strongly suggesting that the emerging superhero from Shyamalan’s 2000 film will face off against The Horde.
For those who never saw Unbreakable (spoilers ahead for a 17-year-old movie), the film follows David Dunn, a security guard who’s the lone survivor of a massive train crash. Dunn eventually comes to learn that he has superpowers and that the man he thought was his mentor, Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), is actually his archnemesis. It’s a fascinating look at the tropes of the superhero genre and trying to reposition them into a more realistic framework. While the twist at the end feels unnecessary (Price is revealed to have orchestrated a series of accidents through flashbacks we couldn’t have possibly known about), the movie as a whole is fairly interesting and it’s certainly worth watching.
So is this how the long-awaited sequel to Unbreakable begins? Fans have been clamoring for one ever since the original was released, but Shyamalan has played coy on the idea, especially since the film only performed modestly at the box office as opposed to exploding like his previous effort, The Sixth Sense. His latest statement on Unbreakable 2 came in 2015 when he told ScreenRant:
“Now, there’s something that’s percolating in me of an approach that is maybe something of interest to me. That’s the best I can say. Something is happening. I can feel it. Something is happening. It would have to be so different than ‘Unbreakable’… a studio would lose their minds because it doesn’t feel at all like a sequel of any kind. It’s just a whole new movie. It would be a wonderful thing. But anyway, I’m thinking about something.”
However, after Split hit theaters, Shyamalan revealed that the concept of the Horde was originally in an early draft of Unbreakable, but eventually the writer-director decided to make the Man in Orange the villain to test Dunn.
The reason the David Dunn reveal works so well in Split is because Split already feels like a spiritual sequel to Unbreakable. I had no idea Dunn would be showing up at the end of the movie, but throughout Split, I kept thinking, “This movie feels a lot like Unbreakable.” Philadelphia setting aside (most Shyamalan films are set there), the movie deals with natural phenomenon being repositioned as supernatural, and while Unbreakable dealt with a man who was physically indestructible, Split looks at a figure with a fractured mind who believes he can become invincible by giving into “The Beast”.
Having David Dunn show up at the end of Split feels like a natural fit for the world, and not simply a twist for twist’s sake. If anything, when villains have become so disposable in superhero movies, the bigger twist is that Shyamalan devoted an entire movie just to setting one up with his hero as a cameo at the end of the picture.
So does this mean we’re getting Unbreakable 2? Shyamalan says he’s got “A really robust outline, which is pretty intricate” and that he’d like to make it his next movie. Of course, that also probably depends on how Split does over the weekend.
What did you think about the Split ending? Do you want to see Dunn face off against The Horde? Sound off in the comments section.