Moviegoers who saw M. Night Shyamalan’s horror-thriller Split this weekend were treated to — you guessed it — a twist ending. Spoilers for the film follow.
Although Shyamalan’s filmography has become characterized by his sometimes gimmicky twists, Split moves in a different direction; rather than ending his story on a mind-bending revelation, Shyamalan waits until the last few moments to connect Split with his 2000 superhero film, Unbreakable. Split, as it turns out, isn’t just a horror film; it’s a supervillain origin story set in the same universe (Shyamalaniverse) as the adventures of Bruce Willis’s David Dunne. Split’s villain isn’t just a creepy bad guy, he’s a classic villain with uncanny powers, and he now goes by the Horde.
Unbreakable was a superhero origin years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Split is the very first solo film dedicated to a supervillain, unless you count Despicable Me. That’s something the MCU and DC have never done, though DC has announced plans for a Black Adam film.
In the film’s final scene, diner patrons watch a newscast about Kevin, aka the Horde (McAvoy), who is on the loose. Someone in the diner mentions a “man in a wheelchair,” who also has a nickname. Suddenly, David Dunne (Willis) replies: “Mr. Glass,” referring to Samuel L. Jackson’s intelligent but physically frail villain from Unbreakable.
In the wake of the film’s release, Shyamalan has opened up about Split always being part of his Unbreakable universe from the get-go. He also says he has plans for an Unbreakable 2.
“This was always part of the Unbreakable world,” said Shyamalan in an interview, confirming McAvoy’s character had been in original drafts of Unbreakable years ago. “I pulled him out because it just wasn’t balancing right. But a bunch of the scenes that are in this movie, I wrote 15 years ago … I knew I wanted to do a movie about [Kevin] because I just loved him so much, and I thought it’s a rich world for storytelling, so I was super, super excited to finally make it.”
“This is down the line, but my hope is to make one final movie that combines the two,” adds Shyamalan.
Split was tested with audiences without the diner scene, in order for the film to hold up by its own merits. Also, some were just too young to have seen or known about Unbreakable to make the connection. “They were too young to see it and they’ll get educated after it. But they have to totally be seeing a story that works all on its own,” says Shyamalan.
Split, Shyamalan’s surprise superhero sequel, is out now in theaters.