Friday, October 8, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: “The Sixth Sense”

  Last night the October film series visited an old friend. I had not seen M. Night Shyamalan’s now classic “The Sixth Sense” in I don’t know how many years, and I thought on a whim to add it to the Halloween film project. And I am so glad that I did. 

 Released in 1999, “The Sixth Sense” was a gigantic hit, that became a cultural phenomenon, and found critical success that landed it several Oscar nominations; an extreme rarity for horror films. In reading about the film after watching, I came across several articles that cite star Toni Collette as saying that she didn’t even really realize that it was a horror film until after she’d signed on, as she had been so drawn to the emotional aspects of the film. And boy, do I agree with Collette. 

 So much has been written about the twist, and for a 20 year old film, I just may discuss spoilers here. I remember being blown away in shock along with the characters when the twist is revealed back in theaters in 1999. But for me, the real brilliance of “The Sixth Sense” is how well the twist works even if you know it. 


This is absolutely a perfect film. The performances— lead by masterworks from young Haley Joel Osment as the child Cole who says he sees ghosts, and Toni Colette as his mother who is tortured by the unknown pain her son is going through— and, even, Bruce Willis as our lead Malcolm, the psychiatrist tasked with helping Cole is brilliant. This script is so brilliant, and beautiful, without one even half ounce of fat on it. It is a brilliant mix of so many real emotions— the humor, when cracked, is so funny and appropriate, each joke earned, and the scares and emotional pay offs are so beautifully earned it will bring tears to your eyes. Each ghost has a purpose, each interaction helps the characters along to where they need to be in life. I don’t think there is a scene in any horror film that hits harder than the scene Collette and Osment share in their car during a traffic jam, when Cole is finally ready to tell his mother her secret. 

 Watching this film again after so many years away, I was also struck at how restrained it is, how gorgeous and appropriate the music is— and, ultimately, how beyond good Toni Collette is in this. Colette has made a career of playing mothers in movies, and, in more recent years with films like “Krampus” and “Hereditary,” she has become something of the go to scream queen mother for horror films. And she deserves such acclaim, and is so, so good here. 

 I was so happy that I chose “The Sixth Sense” to revisit this October; one of my favorite horror— and all around— films. 

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