Film Theory: Split Is More Than A Standalone Sequel To Unbreakable...
The M. Night Shyamalanaverse begins.
M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent movie and return to the psychological horror genre, Split, is the first film in a long while to break the director’s string of bad luck. Focussing on a trio of young girls kidnapped by a man with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) hosting a staggering 23 personalities, his purpose in taking them becomes clear when the terrifying appearance of a 24th becomes apparent.
Featuring Anna Taylor-Joy as the willful leader of the group of girls, Casey, and James McAvoy as the long-suffering and mentally shattered Kevin, the film reignited Shyamalan's status as the king of the end game, bringing about another jaw-dropping plot twist in the final moments of the movie to accompany the polished visuals and incredible acting.
With a little speculation on the other elements seeded throughout the film, however - there might be something more at work. What if, instead of just being the standalone sequel to Unbreakable, Split has some other secrets up its sleeve? What if there’s more than one movie linked to this piece? What if, in the same way Kevin is the converging point for all these personalities, Split is the vessel that holds the key to the kingdom of the Shyamalanverse? It's truly a magical time to be alive.
This piece will contain spoilers for a number of Shyamalan films, so you’ve been warned...
6. I See Dead People
To give credit where credit is due, the theory was first born from reddit user EatRayLove, drawing parallels between the content discussed in Split to one of the director’s earlier works. Now, hold your breath here, as it’s going to take a little imagination - but The Sixth Sense is where this whole things begins.
The film that put Shyamalan on the map and one that has stood the test of time since its release in 1999, The Sixth Sense is the story of Cole, a young boy that can communicate with ghosts, who undergoes treatment from psychologist Malcolm Crowe by request of his mother. Figuring out his gift and aided by the doctor, it’s discovered at the end of the film that Crowe himself was in fact dead all along, killed in a sequence earlier in the movie that had been passed off as just an injury.
Now, the link between the two films comes from one key moment in Split that can be interpreted in a number of ways. Kevin’s own therapist, Dr Karen Fletcher, is shown to be giving a Skype presentation to a room full of intellectuals on her divisive research into DID. During her exploration of the mind and the effect of the disorder on her patients, she begins to muse on the wider repercussions of mental health, asking:
‘Have these individuals, through their suffering, unlocked the potential of the brain? Is this the ultimate doorway to all things we call unknown? Is this where our sense of the supernatural comes from?’