The Sixth Sense (1999) – M. Night Shyamalan

The 101 Horror Movies list has brought me to The Sixth Sense. A film that no matter what you think of Shyamalan’s later work, still stands as a fantastic little spooky tale, undeniably a classic ghost story.

Bruce Willis stars as Malcolm Crowe a psychologist who has a troubling confrontation in his home with a former patient, Vincent (Donnie Wahlberg) – the reveal of him standing there in the bathroom door is still so awesomely executed, that even when I know it’s coming it still gives me a little jump.

Shot during the confrotation that also claims Vincent’s life, Crowe is left troubled, and alone, seperated from his wife Anna (Olivia Willilams) and trying to find a way to redeem himself.

He meets a young boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment), who seems to be having a tough time, and his mother (wonderfully played by Toni Collette) is becoming increasingly worried about him. I really like when she begins to suspect that something is going on, and re-examines the photos of Cole and sees that there are spirit orbs in them. That’s a nice little moment.

As the two form a relationship, Cole finally reveals to Crowe his problem, in the now oft-recited line… “I see dead people.” Once that revelation is given, we get to see things through Cole’s POV, and though there are no real jumps in the film, the camerawork and framing makes for some very spooky moments including the ghost in his bedroom, and the people hanging all watching Cole. Gah.

Crowe tells Cole that maybe they aren’t there to scare him, and that perhaps he should try communicating with them, to find out what they want. It’s there that the film changes, no longer about being frightened by these things, no matter how scary they may appear to be, but in confronting that fear, and hoping to help those troubled souls. That’s an idea I always like to consider, what binds these tortured souls to this earthly plane, and how can we help them to move on… I do like a good ghost story.

What I really love about the film is that even ater you’re aware of the twist, you can go back and rewatch the film, and see that all the evidence is there from the beginning, if you’re observant you can pick up all of these things.

You’d think that once the reveal is known the film loses it’s impact, but the story takes you in, it captures and holds your attention. Apparently the Academy agreed as it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Osment is brilliant, playing a frightened, vulnerable child and there’s not a moment when you don’t believe that this poor boy is both troubled and haunted. He turns in a wonderful performance and though the Crowe/Cole relationship is the centerpiece of the film, I quite enjoy the way Osment and Collette work together, you can empathise with both sides of the family, and you just want them both to be happy.

The VFX are kept to a minimum and used sparingly, but when they are used, they never seem out of place, and I particulaly like seeing Cole’s breath when the temperature drops because of a nearby presence. It’s those little things that put you more on edge, not anything that is shown, it’s the mood and the creep factor that truly make this a spooky film.

It’s unfortunate that M. Night kept going back to the well with his twist ending stories, because I do believe that he CAN be a talented filmmaker, though his Last Airbender was abysmal and an insult to anyone who loved the series upon which it was based.

Still, I did enjoy the chance to revisit this film. It made me remember when it first came out, and no one I spoke to, and I was working in a video store at the time, ever revealed the twist to anyone if they hadn’t seen the film yet. No one would spoil it. It makes me happy when that kind of thing happens, that everyone is quite happy to keep the secret and let everyone enjoy the film.

Did you see it? Or was it spoiled for you before you saw it? What do you think of Shyamalan’s work?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Smellycat says:

    A really great movie !! And I think, at the end we were all like that “Haaaaan ! No way !! Have to re-watch it with this idea, it’s not possible !” and we did 😉

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Yup, it was good fun 😀

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