THE SIXTH SENSE, 1999
Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg
A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.
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One of the best thriller/horror films of all time, The Sixth Sense was one of the first, and some may argue only, great film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan who enthralls us with his dark yet captivating vision. Taking a rather tired premise of ghost stories, M. Night delivered in 1999 an original film that forces you to watch it again. The ending specifically is one no one saw coming, and when you look back for the evidence, as you continue to wonder “how did I miss that?” You’ll be even more surprised by how all that facts are in plain sight. Truly a remarkable film.
Haley Joel Osment gives the performance of his career as a troubled youth struggling with this strange curse that allows him to see dead people, “I see dead people,” a line that has found a home on the list of most memorable movie quotes. But he finds a friend in a psychiatrist looking to redeem himself after a losing a patience to suicide, the same patient who also shot him years back just before killing himself. With Joel, he notices the same behavior his former patient went through and sees this as an opportunity to get it right.
M. Night is gifted not only in storytelling but his ability to manipulate the camera so that your eye only sees what he wants you to see, neglecting certain details in the frame until he wants you to notice them. When information in the frame comes to light, you are both pleasantly surprised and somewhat frustrated with yourself for not noticing it before hand.
Also, less is more, and Night has mastered that in this film. After the mother, played by the exceptional Toni Collette, leaves the kitchen only to return within seconds, all of the drawers and cabinets are open. There was no noise, no one walked in, and there is no logical reason as to why or how those objects seemingly opened on their own.
It’s without a doubt on of the most chilling moments in the entire film, and you don’t even see anything. Your imagination takes over as to what happened, and it’s that ability to use your mind to fill in the gaps that M. Night does so well to not only enhance your experience, but make it unique and different for everyone else. There are plenty of chilling moments and they’re not simply cheap scares but rather something that actually advances the story such as a little girl ghost giving a certain item to Osment in relation to her murder.
Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment scenes together are captivating to watch. Osment does a fine job going toe to toe with Willis, but both play their roles with quiet performances. When they speak to each other they use a low tone voice, almost as if their whispering. Their scenes are low key, but it’s effective and compelling enough that you remain glued to what their saying.
This was M. Night’s first major feature and he does a near perfect job here. Throughout the picture he maintains an eerie mood that never draws attention to itself, meaning you’re constantly on edge but never realize it until a light moment of brevity appears breaking the tension, although briefly. Unlike his later films which seem to decline in quality and content, The Sixth Sense gets better and better all the way to the unbelievable ending.