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Review: The Sixth Sense: Thriller scares viewers senseless

"Do you know why you're scared when you're alone?" asks a trembling character moments before sqeezing the trigger on the opening sequence of the The Sixth Sense. "I do. I do," he says.
And so, apparently, does M. Night Shyamalon, the young writer/director responsible for the superb thriller The Sixth Sense - or at least he knows what it takes to have an audience peeking through the cracks of their fingers, and glancing nervously over their shoulders for days.
Yes, the Sixth Sense has the whole spine-tingling package - eerie situations replete with shadowy cinematography, dissonant, maddeningly suspensful music, judicious splashes of gore - but it is the clever unpredictability of the script and the unique premise, not made clear until the very end, that really sets it apart.


Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment (left), tells Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) that he can see the walking dead.
photo: Taken from the Internet

The Sixth Sense

Starring: Bruce Willis, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 107 Minutes
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4

"Do you know why you're scared when you're alone?" asks a trembling character moments before sqeezing the trigger on the opening sequence of the The Sixth Sense. "I do. I do," he says.

And so, apparently, does M. Night Shyamalon, the young writer/director responsible for the superb thriller The Sixth Sense - or at least he knows what it takes to have an audience peeking through the cracks of their fingers, and glancing nervously over their shoulders for days.

Yes, the Sixth Sense has the whole spine-tingling package - eerie situations replete with shadowy cinematography, dissonant, maddeningly suspensful music, judicious splashes of gore - but it is the clever unpredictability of the script and the unique premise, not made clear until the very end, that really sets it apart.

Bruce Willis plays Dr. Malcom Crowe, a succesful child psychologist seeking redemption for a past case that ended in tragedy. Blaming himself, he loses his professional confidence along with the health of his marriage. But when he finds Cole, a little boy that reminds him of the former lost patient, he sees his chance for a new beginning.

Cole is a social outcast who harbors an unusual fascination of things morbid - he was initially referred for psychological care after drawing a picture of a man being stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver - and who is marked by the mysterious apperance of scratches on his body.

It is immediately clear to the veiwer that the child is not a divorce-addled attention-seeker nor anything else so mundane, but that his problems stem from his inability to fully comprehend his preternatural gifts. Crowe, however, remains stumped until he garners enough of Cole's trust to learn his secret: that he can (indeed, must) interact with the dead as though they were the wounded, catatonic living. "How often do you see these ghosts?" asks Willis. "All the time," responds the child.

Like the referee of a basketball game, a good performance for Bruce Willis is when people aren't talking afterwards about how much he sucked. He plays his role competently, as in Pulp Fiction, but the real star of the film is Haley Joel Osment as Cole. While the character is by turns scared, sad, angry, withdrawn, courageous, and even playful, Osment manages it all with an impressive intelligence.

My only complaint is that the movie finishes too soon, cheating the viewer of the final, climactic scene that was not.

That aside, The Sixth Sense is terrific. In reponse to a friend who asked me if the movie was scary, I replied, "Very - I couldn't sleep for two nights."

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