Original Movie Review From 1999:
"The Sixth Sense" is certainly different from the kind of horror thriller that the advertisements make it out to be. It's a film that demands patience as it slowly leads us down the path that it's set out for us. When a film like this takes it's time, it's up to us whether or not to choose to follow. "6th Sense" has an uncommon amount of confidence in the way that it's paced. Facts are given out with a controlled grace, a spark of storytelling electricity to lead the film on towards another twist. We follow the story on a film like this not only for those reasons, but for the reason that we're presented with fully written characters as well as a smartly written screenplay.
What this film also has quite a bit of is suprisingly good acting. It seems as if director M. Night Shayamalan seems to be the first to harness the talents of Bruce Willis in what I consider to be the best performance of his I've seen. At first glance, the performances here seem to be muted, lacking any sort of intensity. Upon closer look though, there's a subtlety to Willis's performance, a detail in the emotions his character expresses, that hasn't been seen from him before. It's a very impressive performance and actually, redeems the kind of performance that he gave in "Armageddon".
The film revolves around a young boy named Cole(Haley Joel Osment in what's easily one of the top performances of the year so far) who is convinced that he can see spirits of the recently dead- not only that, but that they try to talk to him. The doctor that ends up aiding the young boy(played by Willis) is just coming off of problems of his own as a former patient breaks into his house in a fury to start the film, attacking him. He sees instant similarities in this boy with the former patient that attacked him and he sets out to do his best not to fail this patient. Only in going back to work, he's left his wife(an excellent performance in a film full of many by "Rushmore"'s Oliva Williams) behind, a "second place" in his life.
There's a lot of original tones and styles presented in a story that has a backbone pleasingly similar to that of Christopher McQuarrie's 1995 crime thriller, "The Usual Suspects". There are plenty of twists and turns here as well, but the most interesting thing is how the sort of "horror" material is presented. It's shown in such a way that presents the characters as believing the facts about what this child sees, and the most impressive thing is that the dialogue is written so well that we believe that they believe in the supernatural- that they can believe in the unbelievable. Cole hides his secret from his mother, until an intensely acted scene later in the film that is not only well-acted, but written extremely well. Ace cinematographer Tak Fujimoto also does excellent work here, making interiors as well as the city streets chilling as the camera creeps along.
If there's really anything wrong with this picture, it's that it tends to become a little too slow for its own good on occasion. When the film works, even though it's certainly a slow at points, it maintains a strong sense of direction, never feeling aimless or pointless. Still, the film could have used a little more consistent tension throughout to help the audience through the slow points. There could have been a slight bit of editing here and there as well. The ending is one heck of a shocker, wildly suprising and completely believable almost wrapping up the film too well.
Again, "6th Sense" provides much in the way of great performances(Osment, Willis and especially Toni Collette are quite good), but one wishes that this film could have been given a pinch or two more of energy throughout. Still, even though some of the film does seem to drag, I found the film's little twists rewarding and the performances are certainly some of the best this year. The marketing campaign promotes this film as more of a horror entry, but it's something completely different: it's far more a drama, with creepy elements. There's very few of the sort of horror genre elements that make us jump out of our seat; it's more a chance for good actors to work with good material.
It's not quite as successful as "The Blair Witch Project" in being a creepy, chilling thriller but "The 6th Sense" is miles better than Jan De Bont's remake of "The Haunting". There's a lot of strong elements in this film, especially the performances. A few little improvements would really make this quite an excellent picture. As is though, it's definitely an entertaining late Summer drama, well-acted and well-written.
VIDEO: Disney has been doing anamorphic transfers consistently since January of this year, and with a slight exception or two, their new efforts have resulted in some really fine work. Tak Fujimoto("That Thing You Do", "Ferris Buller's Day Off") is really one of my favorite cinematographers, and his work on this picture is wonderful, building up a cold feeling without making the film feel too withdrawn. There's a strong sense of the effort that went into the film's color palette, and the DVD pulls it off nicely. Images are perfectly sharp throughout, and detail is also very good. Again, this is not an extremely colorful movie, but it always manages to be visually interesting.
There aren't any of the usual problems to take away from an otherwise really fine image in terms of quality. No shimmering or pixelation occur throughout, and I was really very pleased at just how natural and clean this image looked. Very good work from Disney.
SOUND: "The 6th Sense" is not a very agressive movie in terms of audio, but there is a definite spookiness that lurks deep within the silence of a lot of scenes. There are occasional sounds used to startle the viewer that work successfully, but for the most part, the film's creepy score by James Newton Howard("Runaway Bride", the upcoming "Dinosaur") drifts through many scenes and envelops the viewer quite well. Dialogue is effective and natural, always easily understood.
MENUS:: Although the animation to the menu isn't terribly major, it does work in the way that it matches up with the film's tone nicely.
EXTRAS: The only fault that I have with this section is not quite an extra, but a feature that you are forced to watch. Like the "Tarzan" DVD, a number of ads (including a very long trailer for "Mission To Mars") comes up. You can click past these with the remote, but it's still a very annoying thing that Disney is doing. I can understand that studios would like us to see trailers for upcoming theatrical releases, but don't force us to watch them, include them in their own section like Universal has started to do.
Now that I have that said, I'll move on to the actual extras themselves.
Music and Sound Design: This is certainly a very interesting extra feature, or at least I found it to be a pretty fascinating look at one element of the movie. With interviews with composer James Newton Howard as well as the director, we learn a great deal about the process of how the director worked with the composer during the process of working on the movie. It's amazing to listen to the efforts that went into the sound design as well, even down to the little details of empty rooms and the presence that had to be felt during many moments of the picture.
Storyboard To Film Comparison: Again, the director leads us through another level of filmmaking - this time, he takes us through the work that he had to do storyboarding the movie, as well as how he worked from them. During this discussion, he leads us through the storyboards and film sequence and gives a very in-depth talk about the ideas and concepts of the scene. It's a discussion that makes me think that director M. Night Shayamalan would have provided a really excellent commentary for the entire film.
The Cast: This featurette has director M. Night Shayamalan and others talking about the original ideas for just who they wanted to cast in the film, and also has some nice "behind-the-scenes" sections of the actors at work. There's also interviews with the actors, who give their thoughts on what they first felt when introduced to the project.
Reaching The Audience: I liked this short documentary quite a bit - there are interviews with many people involved at how they felt about the unexpected success of the movie.
Rules and Clues: This featurette takes a look at how the filmmakers kept the rules of the movie going, and how they kept the film's logic going as well as how they built suspense. It also gives details about the clues along the way - saying that, if you haven't watched the movie before, I definitely think you shouldn't watch this (or really any of the extras) before you watch the movie itself.
Deleted Scenes: Including an introduction from director M. Night Shayamalan, this is 4 deleted scenes, one of which is an alternate ending of the film. Before each scene as well, there is an introduction from the director that explains more specifically what the scene you're about to watch is about, and why it did not end up in the picture. I really enjoyed all of these scenes(they're fairly lengthly, as well) and although they're very good on their own, I understand why the director chose to remove them.
Night's First Horror Film: The director shares a clip of about a minute and a half of his first horror film when he was very young. It's definitely a fun (and funny) clip to watch, and it has an introduction from the director talking about working on the short.
Also: A short conversation with the director, cast and crew bios and the trailer/2 TV spots.
Final Thoughts: The annoying fact that we're forced to watch a group of trailers when the movie is first turned on is a pain, but it certainly didn't ruin what was is an otherwise very nice presentation. The extras are very good, but they weren't stunning - they just provide a good level of background information that reveals strong details about the production. The audio and video quality are both excellent, and I really enjoyed watching this film a second time. Rather than focusing on just where it was headed, I could enjoy the fantastic performances from the entire cast.