I missed out on the The Sixth Sense phenomenon. Not only did I have the movie spoiled for me in advance, I didn't see it until it had been on video for some time (yes, I watched the movie on an ancient device known as a VHS tape). Although M. Night Shyamalan has subsequently destroyed his reputation, Sense is definitely the modern movie that's shaping today's ghost stories, and despite the generational degradation between "original" and "copy", writer/director Johnny Kevorkian's film The Disappeared has that movie's stink all over it. Modern viewings of Sense struck me as only partially effective (unsuccessful Shyamalan is like watching a magic trick you know the secret to), but even that movie at half-speed works better than Kevorkian's film, which is a dull, excruciatingly slow-paced bore.
Harry Treadaway was the least interesting part of Gil Kenan's seriously underrated City of Ember, but he's become marginally better in the meantime, delivering a performance that's emotionally sound despite the weight of "head-trip" acting tics in the majority of his scenes. He plays Matthew, a teenager wracked with guilt over the disappearance of his younger brother Tom (Lewis Lemperuer Palmer) while he was off at a party getting wasted with his pal Simon (Tom Felton, looking like Ben Foster's long-lost twin), and their father Jake (Greg Wise) was at work. Having just returned home from an extended stay in a mental institution, he finds himself plagued with visions of Tom, each one whispering desperately for help.
The material is no great shakes, but Kevorkian chooses to visualize it in the most boring way possible. Matthew sees a vision of Tom, does a double-take, and the vision is gone, with the frequent but optional inclusion of a sane person standing nearby to observe Matthew's weird behavior. Each one of these scenes (and there are lots of them) is indistinguishable from the last one, and they go on for far too long before Matthew finally goes and visits a local psychic named Shelley Cartwight (Nikki Amuka-Bird), at the prodding of neighbor and apparent abuse victim Amy (Ros Leeming). For a brief spell, the movie picks up again, but then the movie changes from inexorable ghost story to uninteresting mystery, complete with blatant foreshadowing that gives the game up far too early.
The movie is bathed in excessive post-production color timing to make the whole thing look dreary and damp. I have taken issue with this technique before, but watching The Disappeared, I felt the real problem is that it's done with a roller. Nobody ever turns just the sky gray, they have to turn the whole frame gray, sucking away the movie's visual appeal.
By the time the almost Hot Fuzz-esque thriller portion was finished, my mind had been wandering for a good 20 minutes, floored by the obviousness of the movie's twists and turns, and wondering how none of the people who made this movie could have been unaware it'd been done repeatedly over the past decade, and that their version had nothing on even the so-so movie that probably led to their film being greenlit in the first place. The best I could come up with is that it's just like the remake and reboot craze. The Sixth Sense is more than a decade old. This is a movie for tweens who haven't seen it already, and never will.
IFC gives us another transparent Amaray case with nothing on the inside. The only difference is that they've chosen one of their least-inspired front cover designs to go on the other side. The image doesn't seem to correspond to any specific part of the film, looks like it was completely created in the computer, and isn't interesting in and of itself. No booklet is included, and the disc has an alternate but equally boring image.
The Video and Audio
The movie's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound are both acceptable and completely unremarkable. I guess the picture looks a little digital, with the contrast tweaked a little high and some mosquito noise in the darker scenes, but it seems like every modern movie looks like this, so I'm starting to think it's intentional. The surrounds are used pretty well, but they're used in service of boring jump scares and not much else.
Three featurettes make up the bonus features on this disc. First, "Production" (16:08) goes through the motions in an excessively boring, clip-heavy fashion, with Greg Wise's comment about an abducted child making for a great plot serving as a reminder that actors, since it's their day job, generally don't watch many movies. Next, "Post-Production Featurette" (13:21) fares mildly better, shedding light on the crew. Too bad their enthusiasm is all for The Disappeared. Finally, "Anatomy of Horror" (7:57) has the same crew members reflecting on how they made such a scary movie (!).
Trailers for Southern Gothic (which blatantly rips-off Near Dark's brilliant tagline), I Sell the Dead, Dead Snow, Home Movie, and Stolen play before the menu.
When I first saw Alien, I remember thinking it was primitive given all the newer movies I'd seen that were made since 1979 that did the same thing, with additional twists. Now I know that originality and simplicity are more important. You don't have to rent The Sixth Sense, because it's not that great itself, but it's far better than The Disappeared, which you can safely skip.
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