During the month of October, the staff here at Nerds and Beyond are sharing some of our favorite spooky cinema selections each day to get into the spirit of Halloween.
Today’s recommendation is The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.
There is certainly no lack of creepy in this selection. When the movie was released in 1999, no one could have guessed that it would become as popular as it did and cement M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation as the purveyor of unexpected twist endings. The movie immediately brings the chills when it opens with the classic shot of a single lightbulb in a dark, creepy basement. This sets the overall ominous tone of the movie. What I love about this selection is that it doesn’t need a lot of blood and gore to get the point across that something creepy is going on. While it does have its moments where a bloody ghost appears out of nowhere, the performances by Willis and, more so Osment, are what drive the scare factor. There is also a particularly creepy portrayal by Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Gray, a former patient of Dr. Crowe (Willis), that made my New Kids On the Block loving heart shudder.
The main story focuses on the relationship between Dr. Malcom Crowe (Willis) and his young patient Cole Sear (Osment.) The first half of the movie is spent just getting to know the characters, but there are subtle clues throughout that there is something more than just a mood disorder plaguing Cole. We don’t really know what until Cole utters his iconic line, “I see dead people.” After this is when we get to see all the ghosts that are making Cole scared all the time.
Osment does a fantastic job of making the audience feel the fear of his character and you really feel bad for him having to deal with all of this. When Dr. Crowe finally realizes that Vincent was also being tormented by ghosts all those years ago, his approach changes and he encourages Cole to try to help his otherworldly friends instead of running from them, and it finally pays off for Cole as he is able to cope with his gift. The movie could have ended there, but what comes next is what made audiences in 1999 gasp when the twist was revealed.
I’m going to throw in a spoiler alert here for anyone who has lived under a rock for the last 20 years, because if you don’t know the twist by now, where have you been? I remember sitting in the theater in 1999 and watching the scene where it is revealed that Dr. Crowe had been a ghost throughout the entire movie. I literally figured it out exactly when the character did. The reveal was so well done that I watched with amazement as I cycled through the million emotions and questions Dr. Crowe must have been feeling in those few seconds. It immediately made me want to watch it again and see all the clues that I missed the first time.
The thing was, there weren’t any glaringly obvious hints, but upon rewatching I noticed some incredible things. I noticed the use of the color red to signify something otherworldly was happening. I noticed that Cole — who I originally thought was just shy meeting his new doctor — was actually scared of this new ghost he encountered. The line “I think you are nice, but you can’t help me,” takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that Cole wanted help to stop seeing ghosts.
The Sixth Sense holds up whether you have seen it once or a hundred times it will still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Make sure to check out tomorrow’s selection in our Nerds Gets Spooky series.