Film Commentary [2-28-00]
Paranormal angst - - The Sixth Sense
Genre: Psycological horror
Grade = A-

The Sixth Sense The film opens with child psychologist Dr. Malcome Crowe (Bruce Willis) and his wife (Olivia Williams) celebrating an award he received from the city for his work. After going upstairs, they discover that their bedroom has been broken into by one of his former child patients, now a thoroughly demented adult. Blaming Crowe for his failure to help him, he shoots Crowe in the stomach and then commits suicide. Months later, Crowe, although physically recovered, is mentally exhausted and cynical about his ability to help children. He begins again with a new patient, eight year-old Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), whose mother has reached the end of her ability to cope with his apparent mental illness: a constant fear of ‘things'. After spending a lot of time with the boy, Cole confesses to Crowe that he sees ‘dead people' everywhere. Unfortunately, this amount of time spent with the boy begins to affect Crowe's marriage, and begins to split the couple apart.

The boy further reveals that the ghosts simply don't know that they're dead. Apparently, they know that Cole can see them and are attracted to him, although they themselves are selective in what they chose to see. This explains why they don't know that they're dead. After becoming convinced that the boy is really seeing the dead, Crowe attempts to have the boy communicate with them to find out what they what from him.

This film is more along the lines of a traditional horror film, rather than being just another frigging hack-the-teenager-to-death flick which have become incredibly tiresome. I usually just prefer that all of the teenagers in these films to get what's coming to them - a gruesome death, followed by the death of that particular horror genre. A traditional ghost story like this seems refreshing even though the formula is centuries old. The acting is very low key, and Osment gives a surprising good performance as the phantasm attraction boy making this a surprisingly good year for child actors (i.e. Jeremy Blackman‘s performance in Magnolia), despite the dreadful performance of Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: the Phantom Menace. Bruce Willis was amazingly subdued, something he is not especially known for.

I am surprised that such a evenly paced film was so popular at the box office, now clocking in at over $230 million. Usually the big box office films have are more fast paced to pander to teenagers' and the less well educated's shortened attention spans. Amazingly, the first ghost doesn't appear until after the first half of the movie. The reluctant showing of the spirits combined with the musical score was extraordinarily effective in establishing an atmosphere of the paranormal. One that can really give you a good case of the creeps. This is by far one of the most ‘frightening' films in years. Much more so than The Blair Witch Project .

Loved the surprise ending. But is the film worthy of a Best Picture Oscar nomination? No, there were several much better films in 1999, but the Oscars always like to throw in a popular box office movie into the mix in order to ensure that people will watch the show. Otherwise, all the nominees would probably be British or foreign language. Nonetheless, an surprisingly good film.

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