Turn Back the Clock

Supernatural Thriller

The Sixth Sense

Distributed by: Hollywood Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When this film first hit theaters, I had no intention of seeing it.  I’m not a huge fan of Bruce Willis and I figured The Sixth Sense was just another silly ghost movie.  I simply had no interest in the film.  However, my family members kept badgering me to see it and I had heard excellent things about it from critics.  Then, there was the fact that the movie had become a box office smash hit from minute one of its release.  So, when it finally came to video stores, I rented it.  I have enjoyed watching this film several times since then and can kick myself for having missed seeing it on the big screen.

            The Sixth Sense opens on the worst days in Dr. Malcolm Crowe’s (Bruce Willis) life.  It should be the best day, having received an award honoring his service as a child psychologist, but on this day, Dr. Crowe learns that he has failed one of his patients.  On this day, former patient Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg) breaks into Dr. Crowe’s home, shoots Crowe and then kills himself.

            Flash forward a year later and Dr. Crowe has a new client, a young, frightened boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  While Crowe tries to help Cole overcome his fears, he struggles at home with his personal life and a wife (Olivia Williams) with whom he finds he can no longer communicate.  As time progresses and Cole begins to trust Dr. Crowe, he reveals the reasons for his eccentricities…the cause of all his fears.  Cole’s secret is that he can see dead people.

            Having failed Vincent Grey, Dr. Malcolm Crowe is dedicated to saving Cole Sear, a patient who exhibits very similar traits as Vincent.  Could it be that Crowe had missed something while treating Vincent?  Could it be that Cole’s revelation is factual and not a product of paranoid delusion?  Will helping Cole in his plight finally fix the problems in Crowe’s own life?

            The storyline of The Sixth Sense would have been enjoyable enough if it had just been a psychological thriller M. Night Shyamalan has a terrific storytelling ability that keeps the viewer interested and vested in his characters.  However, the supernatural aspect of the story is what grabs you and ultimately makes this movie a hit.

            Haley Joel Osment is an incredible child actor who tackles the dramatic and terrifying scenes with an almost adult like sense of timing and subtlety.  One almost believes Haley is actually seeing the ghosts his character claims to see.  Bruce Willis is likable in this role, which presents a dramatic change from the action hero he is used to portraying.  Toni Collette is excellent as Lynn Sear, Cole’s mother and I wish I could have seen more of her acting in the film.  As it was, it was easy to believe in her fears as a mother who doesn’t quite understand just what it is her son is going through or what to do about it.

            The musical score, created by James Newton Howard is rather haunting in itself, but when added to the sound effects of people breathing, screaming and sometimes moaning, the score sends chills up your spine, perfectly enhancing the visual aspects of the film.

            But, what makes The Sixth Sense such an incredible film is the shock factor.  M. Night Shyamalan brings us along believing that this is a film about a troubled youngster and one doctor’s chance at redemption, and it is about that.  But there’s something else - a shocking revelation that brings everything else you have already seen in the film into perspective.  Suddenly things that you already thought you had figured out are completely wrong.  What you thought you knew is now turned on its ear. 

            Even more interesting is that, knowing what you now know, when you watch the movie again, you wonder how you could have missed all of the clues toward this revelation that the filmmaker had given you throughout the movie.  Watch it again, you will…and again…and again, each time revealing one more clue, one more hidden piece of dialogue or set design that would have revealed something more about the film had you just been paying attention.  This is the intriguing thing about The Sixth Sense and why I keep watching it over and over, eventually buying the DVD version as my VHS version was wearing out.

            The Collector’s Series DVD version of The Sixth Sense offers much in extras.  There are quite a few interesting featurettes which reveal a great deal about how the film was made including casting for the film, the film’s musical score and sound effects, clues scattered throughout the film (such as the red colored items which appear every time a ghost is present) and more.  Deleted scenes from the film, complete with an introduction by M. Night Shyamalan, are rather interesting.  An interview with M. Night Shyamalan reveals how he got into creating movies, his initial reaction to the success of The Sixth Sense and more.  Viewers can watch the various trailers for the film and read about the filmmakers and cast members.  There is also a tiny segment which features M. Night Shyamalan’s first horror film, created when he was approximately eleven years old.  Shyamalan pokes fun at this early film and reminds us that the creator of this film was capable of greater things in the form of The Sixth Sense.  If he could do it, imagine what others could do.

            The Sixth Sense is an awesome film and one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best.  I would recommend purchasing the Collector’s Edition Series DVD version of the film as it provides even more insight into the film in its Special Features section.  But even if you don’t purchase the film, at least rent it.  M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout film is definitely worth all the hype and praise. 


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