March 22, 2000

"The Sixth Sense"



        I have the rare privilege of writing a positive review about a recent movie.  Obviously, I’m about year behind everyone else on this, but "The Sixth Sense" was not only a damn good movie, it’s a scary horror film, which is even rarer still.  I would say the last horror film that was actually scary previous to this was "Aliens," and that was 14 years ago!  There must be kids and young adults that got scared in a movie theater for the very first time in their lives seeing "The Sixth Sense."
         Because I would like to discuss the story, anyone that hasn’t seen the film should stop reading right now.  I’m very surprised that no one ruined it for me in the year it took me to finally see the film, but I was completely surprised and if you stop reading this and go rent the movie right now, you will be, too.
         Something that I really loved is after the insane ex-patient shoots him, his wife runs to him and it fades out.  When we next see Bruce Willis we as human beings automatically say to ourselves, "Oh, I guess he got better" and continue right on with the story.  If he’s there talking to the kid, he must be OK now and it wasn’t as bad a wound as it looked.
         It now strikes me, is he walking around the entire movie with a huge bloody wound on his back?  They reveal at the end of the movie that it looked like a clean entrance puncture and a terrible bloody wound on his back, so I guess he should always be that way since everyone else is as bloody as when they died.
         I watched the film on TV in my hotel room at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.  Within a few minutes of the film ending I turned off the light and went to sleep.  A few minutes later I had to turn the light back on because I was scared, and I’m 41 years old.  It was sort of wonderful.  I recall doing exactly the same thing the night I saw "Carrie" for the very first time in 1976—I was 18 years old—and it scared me so badly that I stayed up most of the night.  Oddly, I think, the only other film in my adulthood to keep me awake was "The Howling" in 1981.












        In my early youth, however, many movies scared me.  I saw "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" in the theater when I was seven or eight and it scared the living piss out of me, particularly when the Wolfman was running after Dracula, who went out the window and turned into a bat, then the Wolfman went out the window and plummeted hundreds of feet into a moat or something, but certainly to his death.  Jesus!  It was so intense.  I had no idea it was a comedy.
        In 1968 at the age of ten, accompanied by my thirteen year old sister, we were dropped off at the mall and we went and saw "Rosemary’s Baby," which was rated M and neither one of us should have been allowed in.  That was a life-shaping experience for me.  I actually have the poster on the wall within three feet of my face at this very moment.
        Anyway, it was wonderful to see a movie and get scared enough to turn the light back on.  And just sit there in this big hotel room thinking, "How many people died in this room?  Hotels are notorious for attracting suicides.  How about on this bed?"
         I kept running back through the scenes of the movie in my head to see how I had been so utterly fooled.  Every instance that I can think of holds up, too.  He comes running up to the car of the fellow that’s messing around with his wife and the car just drives away, as though the guy hadn’t didn’t hear him.  And the scene in the restaurant with his wife and her seemingly ignoring him and paying the bill—but she doesn’t even see him!
         It’s really great.  I’m eager to see the film again and study the construction, because as I watched it the first time I had absolutely no idea where I was being taken and enjoyed every moment of the ride.  There were definitely times when I didn’t quite know what was happening, but I always felt like the storyteller knew where he was going.
         I’ve never heard of this guy, M. Night Shmyalan, but he certainly did a terrific job both writing and directing.  Both Bruce Willis and Haly Joel Osment are very good.  The camerawork is sinuous, clear, and interesting.  No, it may not be a great movie, but it’s succeeding with what it’s attempting, and that’s almost monumental these days.

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