The Sixth Sense (1999)

If ever a film was filled with hype and, furthermore, a hype that it can’t deliver on, this is the one. M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Sixth Sense is one of the more highly thought of films of all time, with a twist near the end that was supposed to leave its audiences stunned. Not only does the twist not deliver, but the movie surrounding it is neither scary nor even all that good. It ends up being boring for the most part, with nothing much really going on.

Plot-wise, the story follows a psychologist by the name of Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis), who is attempting to help a young child (Hayley Joel Osment) deal with his many apparent issues. This is a personal case for Dr. Crowe, as he had a case like this many years ago. At the beginning of the film, this now-grown-up patient breaks into Crowe’s house and shoots him. Crowe eventually is able to resume working and is now attempting to help the shut-in child. The child, however, does not initially want Crowe’s help. While it does appear that this child has many issues, he does not want the help of anyone to deal with them.

The film goes through Crowe befriending the child, until he eventually opens up to the good doctor. The child sees dead people; he has for a very long time. These dead people talk to him, and the child is scary. That’s about all of the significant plot development, save for the supposed twist at the end of the film. The twist itself isn’t impressive itself, and only actually works due to the fact that the audience won’t guess it, due to it not really having much of an impact on the story. Sure, it’s original, and nobody sees it coming, but it isn’t an impactful twist. It doesn’t alter the perspective of the viewer, and it certainly doesn’t change any part of the narrative.

The worst part of the twist is the fact that once you know it, the film will be even worse on any subsequent viewings. A surprise like the one in The Sixth Sense will only surprise you once. After the initial shock, there is nothing really to the film. It’s empty, in a sense. Nothing drives the story, and the only thing it has going for it besides the twist is the acting.

The Sixth Sense is a one-trick pony.

The acting itself is just fine, with Bruce Willis driving the majority of the film. Hayley Joel Osment also does a good job, managing to both show emotional depth and speak one of the more famous lines in cinema history, “I see dead people”. He utters this line with perfect timing, and while it isn’t something that is much of a shock—as if you’ve ever heard the line before, you know it is coming—it still manages to leave an impact on the viewer. Osment manages to actually keep up with Willis when it comes to acting, something that is quite impressive.

The Sixth Sense is actually quite impressive visually, with there being a few hidden clues towards the inevitable twist. Take particular note of the color red; trust me, it’ll make sense once you know the twist. The cinematography is good, and there is no issue with the editing. Everything flows, nothing is abstracted from view, and the scenery looks nice. Sadly, films cannot stand squarely on the way they were made. They need to have something to engage the viewer, something that The Sixth Sense does not have.

For something that is supposedly a “psychological horror” film, The Sixth Sense isn’t scary in the least. There are a few times where it tries, but it never manages to succeed. The ghosts themselves aren’t scary, and you don’t initially feel any sort of emotion towards the lead characters. They do grow on you, but by that point, there is no further attempt to be scary. In fact, when you do learn of the ghosts that the child sees, you almost empathize more with them than with the characters that are supposedly being haunted by them. The ghosts seem to hate still being on earth more than the characters hate being haunted by them. This gives an interesting perspective on what it would be like to be a ghost, but it isn’t explored all that far in-depth. Speculation is about as far as you can go with this idea.

The Sixth Sense is a one-trick pony. The trick (or twist, in this case) isn’t even all that impressive. Sure, you likely won’t see it coming, but that doesn’t change the fact that it makes no change on the story, or the emotions on the people watching the story unfold. What’s more, is once the twist is unveiled, there isn’t any point to re-watch the film, save for looking for clues towards it. That’s too bad, as the acting is good and the cinematography is excellent. The story just ends up being too boring to be enjoyable, with the ghosts being the most likable characters.

Conclusion: The Sixth Sense is an overhyped movie that doesn’t hold up once you get past the twist.

Recommendation: You already know the twist. Skip The Sixth Sense.

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