Supernatural thrillers are a genre that is very obscure, it’s honestly almost impossible to find films within this particular genre. There are a few of them here and there, such as the 2019 film Doctor Sleep which manages to combine the supernatural elements with an engrossing thriller structure. There’s also the Devil’s Advocate, a film from the 90s which cemented Keanu Reeves as one of the most talented actors to take center stage in the future. However, the one film that always comes to mind whenever the genre “supernatural thriller” is talked about is The Sixth Sense. This was M. Night Shyamalan’s third film and by far the one film that literally defined his career.
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The Movie Review
The story follows Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist from Philadelphia who returns with his wife one night to their home. However, there is an intruder there who is a young man named Vincent. Vincent is convinced that Malcolm had failed him and before Malcolm could convince him otherwise; Vincent shoots Malcolm and then himself. A few months later,
Malcolm is now working with a 9-year-old child named Cole Sear. His attachment to the child grows as he seeks redemption for failing Vincent and causing him to shoot both Malcolm and himself. However, Cole is a cold and distant child who hides secrets way beyond the understanding of Malcolm and his own mother.
Night Shyamalan’s signature style of constant plot twists is present here better than ever, in fact, this was the movie that popularized his signature style. The Sixth Sense is created as a masterful slow burner that creates so much tension in the atmosphere that quite literally every scene tells a story of its own. It’s not just through the story either, but rather these characters and the way they speak. Every single moment in this film has an ominous aura, where you can’t help but feel that something isn’t right.
This is in part due to the visual direction of the film, M. Night Shyamalan works furiously on the way his films’ aesthetic design looks. In terms of The Sixth Sense, this was the first collaboration between M. Night Shyamalan and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto who is credited for films such as Devil in a Blue Dress, Silence of the Lambs, and The Manchurian Candidate. Shyamalan and Fujimoto together craft an enigmatic atmosphere full of tension and looming regret. The shots are drenched with a true 90s b-horror movie atmosphere, with unorthodox angles and horror-like movement.
The best part about this movie undoubtedly is the performances that Shyamalan has managed to squeeze out of this ensemble cast of Bruce Willis, Tony Collette, Haley Joel Osment, Olivia Williams, and Donnie Wahlberg. The characters played by Bruce, Haley, and Tony Collette are in particular absolutely dominating on-screen. Haley Joel Osment who played the role of Cole Sear was a child at the time of filming, and he did such an amazing job that it was hard to believe he was acting at all.
Bruce Willis absolutely drowns himself in the role of Malcolm Crowe, giving the performance of a lifetime, where anything he does and says is fully in character. I cannot stress enough that the supporting cast of this film plays a huge part. Tony Collette, Olivia Williams, and Donnie Wahlberg all play their parts to absolute perfection and increase the atmosphere in the film by tenfold.
The Bottom Line
My verdict for The Sixth Sense can’t be anything less than full A+ scores in all regards. This is a film that makes use of its slow pacing to culminate into a brain-melting climax. It’s made that much more intense due to this slow burner being filled with atmosphere, either through incredible cinematography, visceral writing, or believable performances. It always manages to keep you on your toes as a viewer, and consistently throws curveballs at you to make sure you’re still watching.
The film is a masterpiece in all regards and by far M. Night Shyamalan’s most consistent work.