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The Sixth Sense (1999)

February 16, 2011

9/10 Ghost Whisperers

The sole reason Shyamalan is still allowed to make movies.

The Sixth Sense is about an esteemed child psychiatrist who’s sittin’ pretty with his wife in Philly, but then one night he gets shot by one of his former patients who couldn’t help, and his career and marriage subsequently tailspin out of control. As he struggles to pick up the pieces, he starts meeting with a young boy whose patient file rings awfully familiar to that of the trigger-happy kid he once failed. The more they open up to one another, the more the psychiatrist realizes that this kid’s dealing with some major shit. That’s right, the kid sees dead people and they ain’t leavin’ his ass alone.


So back in ’99, you couldn’t escape from this movie. It came out of nowhere, the word of mouth could not be silenced, absolutely everyone went to see it, and if you’re like me, the ending was ruined for you because that’s the only damn thing anyone talked about that year. As a result, I’m not surprised it took me 12 years to give it another watch considering for a long time it’s been the “I see dead people” movie.

But don’t get me wrong, this was a damn good movie back then and it’s still a damn good movie now. In fact, it’s probably better now than it was in theaters. All I really remember about the experience of first seeing this with my dad was getting the poop scared right out of me, and even though I was more getting the fart scared out of me this latest time around, it was a lot easier to appreciate everything else that didn’t involve a young Mischa Barton barfing all over herself in a tent. Not that I really appreciated that back then anyway.

Man, M. Night Shyamalan struck gold with this script. Folks, this is Rod Serling shit, this is just great, surreal, original storytelling that rarely comes around and keeps the same people coming back for more because it’s an entirely different movie the second time you buy the ticket. But aside from the ending (which I’m not gonna mention in case one of the five people left on Earth who’ve never heard of this movie stumbles upon this review), there is so much quality going on here that totally deserves to be recognized.

Yeah, you might need to take some of it with a grain of salt and not wonder so much about what’s going on in these characters’ lives when the camera’s not there capture it, but this plot really is so well structured and carefully thought out from one scene to the next. It’s all in the details, it’s the stuff that comes off as subtle at first glance but ends up making you go “How did I miss that?” when the big picture finally comes together. It’s the bursts of red that stand out like a bloody CAUTION sign every time something ain’t right, it’s the way initially insignificant developments come full circle and turn into cornerstones, it’s the way you don’t even see any dead people until the kid lays it on his shrink.

I love that about this movie. I love the way it keeps us in the dark and only starts to unravel as fast as this kid is ready to open up. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to go into this movie blind, but I probably would have had a heart attack. This is some legitimately scary shit that had me plugging my ears like no other at the horrified age of 13. Granted, it’s pretty cheap when it goes from dead silence to blaring piano chords whenever a silhouette walks across a dark hallway, but there are a couple seriously quiet scares in there and it’s all quite eerie and unsettling regardless of the audio. Also dig that it’s more than just a horror thriller, it also happens to be a nice little meditation on living with death and moving on from it. Definitely missed that the first time around and it’s a major strength that elevates it from the realm of Hollywood blockbuster.

And on top of the story there’s a handful of actors who all rock it, too.

Alright, Bruce Willis only has one facial expression going for him the whole damn time, but it works. I liked his calm and controlled performance as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, it’s a swell complement to the overall mood and in a lot of ways he’s just as interesting as the kid who sees ghosts for Chrissakes. But even if this was BW’s magnum opus, Haley Joel Osment would still steal the show and would still doom himself to a life as That Kid. Unfortunate that he’s now in the same ranks as Jonathan Lipnicki because he holds his own like a pro and this was not an easy role for a ten-year-old to pull off. And Toni Collette is also fantastic as his mom, although she also has to bow down to the HJO when push comes to shove. Geez, what the hell happened to that kid?

But M. Night Shyamalan…

The dude sold this script for a cool $2M, demanded to be the director to boot, and he got his wish like a boss even though the only thing he had under his belt was some shitty Rosie O’Donnell movie that no one saw. That kind of royal treatment doesn’t happen a whole lot to Hollywood newbies and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the apple has continued to fall farther and farther from the tree with each new failed attempt to reach the bar he set for himself here. But for a movie that’s been a borderline cliche’ for a while now, I was surprised by how awesome The Sixth Sense still is. It’s so bittersweet considering the riotous laughter that broke out in the theater when Shyamalan’s name came up during those Devil trailers, and as much I wish the guy would quit digging his own ditch already, there’s a reason this was such a big hit and there’s a reason so many people actually went to see The Happening. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll be another Sixth Sense.

Hello disappointment.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. laurenthejukebox17 permalink
    February 16, 2011 3:00 am

    The end was ruined for my mom on a talk show… luckily I saw it with a clean slate (how, I have no idea…) I also love the red emphases. And HJO is crazy good, too bad he ain’t still around he’s about as good as they come for kid actors. Hm, and I don’t know if anyone can really say where M. Night went wrong… he had Sixth Sense and I personally really like Unbreakable as well, and I’d love to see him break out a few more like those ones again. Good review, as always. 🙂

    • February 17, 2011 2:30 pm

      Thanks and way to go in without knowing the ending! Got it ruined for me by accidentally eavesdropping on my uncles after they saw it and couldn’t quit talking about it.

      And I think we’d all love to see M. Night make a legit comeback instead of shoveling more shit our way. Really liked Unbreakable, too, but I felt like I was in the minority on that one when I saw it with my family way back when. Geez, I own that movie, about time I gave that another watch, too.

  2. February 16, 2011 7:09 am

    This movie is just about perfect the second time you see it, cause you look at all the little details that the story uses, to get towards the ending. There are also some nice little emotional moments with Collette and Joel Osment that work and show that Shyamalan really was a genius. However, I do think he is bound for a come back, eventually. Great review my man!

    • February 17, 2011 2:37 pm

      Thanks, man! Yeah, I think M. Night just needs to drop off the face of the Earth for a while and take some serious time to write a script that’ll actually blow folks away like this did. Here’s to hoping.

  3. February 16, 2011 9:01 am

    Great review Aiden. This one grew on me. I didn’t fall in love with it like so many did when it was first released. But I think it works well on subsequent viewing even when you know the twist. I do however think Unbreakable is better.

    • February 17, 2011 2:38 pm

      Thanks, man!

      Yeah, I think I’m actually with you there on Unbreakable. I don’t think the general public felt the same way, but that was a brilliant premise for a movie and I loved the way it unfolded. Bonus points for Sam Jackson’s hair.

      Geez, I really need to watch that one again.

  4. February 16, 2011 9:45 am

    I saw this film and thought it was okay. I saw it again and couldn’t think of a single thing I actually liked about it the first time. Once you know the twist, I feel like the magic is gone because I really don’t like these characters, the monsters aren’t nearly as threatening and all the story beats become transparent once you know what is really going on.

    I like M. Night’s next three films more than this one, although I’m sure I’m in a very small minority.

    • February 17, 2011 2:41 pm

      Interesting. Actually dig the repeat viewings if only to catch everything you missed the first time around. Kinda like re-watching The Prestige.

      Big fan of Unbreakable myself, but not so much Signs and I effing hated The Village. Sorry, man. That last review’s gonna be a harsh one when I eventually get around to it, just givin’ ya’ fair warning.

  5. HermioneO permalink
    February 16, 2011 12:11 pm

    Yeah, I’m with a couple of posters here, I liked Unbreakable. It and Sixth Sense are the only good things to have come out of M. Night. I don’t know why.

    I saw Sixth Sense after the big press, though I managed to not get spoiled. I guessed the ending early on, because I noticed alll the little things that most people didn’t. So for me the first time was excellent.

    • February 17, 2011 2:45 pm

      I’m with you on that first point, too. No idea why the genius stopped there.

      And way to guess the ending, that must have been pretty awesome.

  6. February 16, 2011 5:22 pm

    Seriously great movie but not the SOLE reason he’s allowed to make films. His first 3 are solid flicks and Unbreakable is actually my favorite.

    • February 17, 2011 2:44 pm

      Haha. Alright, his first three are outrageously better than the rest of his resume, but I think more folks go into an M. Night movie these days hoping for another Sixth Sense than an Unbreakable or Signs. But I hear ya’, brother. Probably should have said “Arguably the sole reason Shyamalan is still allowed to make movies.” Will make that correction in the Unbreakable review.

  7. February 17, 2011 12:03 pm


  8. February 18, 2011 12:49 am

    Really. Whatever happened to Haley Joel Osment. (I remember reading somewhere he got arrested. Drugs, I think.) He was excellent in this film and Spielberg’s “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.”

    I still have faith in Shyamalan. He just needs to stop trying too hard. Just give us a good story, a specific perspective in telling the story, and everything should fall into place.

    I had to look up Jonathan Lipnicki. I was like, “Jonathan who?”

    • February 18, 2011 3:35 pm

      Yeah, I think it was a DUI or something. Smooth operator that Haley Joel. Wasn’t crazy about AI when I saw it in theaters, should probably give that another watch one of these days.

      And I agree about Shyamalan, he’s trying way too hard these days. All he’s thinking about is the twist and that doesn’t make up for everything else he fucks up.

  9. February 18, 2011 3:17 am

    I want to go on record here as saying The Happening was a great idea with a stupid premise. Loved Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable – but Lady In The Water was, for me, the end of M Night’s career.

    • February 18, 2011 3:42 pm

      Will report back on The Happening when I actually see it, but from I heard, there did seem to be promise. The Village was the breaking point for me. Didn’t even make it to Lady in the Water.

  10. February 19, 2011 11:13 pm

    I liked “Sixth Sense” when I saw it way back when. I didn’t see the ending coming. However, I did like the ending better when Giuseppe Tornatore did the exact same thing about five years earlier in “A Pure Formality”… unfortunately more people probably saw M. Night’s film than Tornatore’s and probably thought “wow, this Shyamalan guy’s come up with something no one’s ever done before”…

  11. February 20, 2011 5:22 pm

    I haven’t seen this one for a second time but I can see how this would hold up even after knowing the ending. It’s certainly one of M. Night’s best (though not THE best one IMO, that’d be Unbreakable), and one of the most understated performance from Bruce Willis. I don’t know if M Night can go back to this level of masterpiece again one day, but I for one won’t rule it out. Everyone deserves a second chance.

    • February 21, 2011 12:55 pm

      Man, that guy’s had more chances than anyone in Hollywood. Lol, would still love to see him come up with something like this again though. Really looking forward to seeing Unbreakable again.

      • February 22, 2011 2:47 pm

        Ha..ha.. yeah I suppose he’s had plenty of chances already, but still, even if he just did this one, it’s enough to make me think he’s really, really talented. Unbreakable is one of those movies that still holds up after repeated viewings.

  12. HermioneO permalink
    February 21, 2011 1:35 pm

    I didn’t mention it before but when I saw Unbreakable in the theater I remember being conscious of watching a great film about a third of the way in. That rarely happens. My friends and I loved Unbreakable, loved the premise, loved the story, loved the acting. It is IMO the best thing M. Night has done. We were screaming for a sequel. I think this film brought Samuel L. into the comic book movie. It was the perfect origins story.

  13. Mel permalink
    October 17, 2011 9:55 pm

    I’m gonna throw it out there and say I absolutely loved the Village when I first saw it. The ending was total boss – I didn’t pick it and thought it was awesome. Most people disagree but I really enjoyed it.

    • October 19, 2011 12:42 pm

      The ending is good, it’s just everything that comes before it that let me down. Been a long time since I last saw it, but the general feeling was complete and utter disappointment and boredom.

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