The Sixth Sense

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: M. Night Shyamalan

REVIEWED: 08-09-99

Bruce Willis starred in The Fifth Element and Demi was in The Seventh Sign, so Willis's new The Sixth Sense fills in the gaps, no? The first hour of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's psychological thriller is creepy, engaging, and unpleasant. Watching a child prone to intense anxiety attacks and brutal peer teasing fall apart is not my idea of fun, but Shyamalan gets the job done. Haley Joel Osment effectively plays emotionally disturbed Cole, a heartbreakingly cute, wiser-than-his-years eight-year-old whose parents' divorce sends him to see renowned child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (a different sort of role for Willis, though he's still called on for plenty of cool, near-whisper bits of banter). For Malcolm, Cole is an eerie reminder of a past patient he failed, and he's determined to devote all his time to redeeming himself, even if it means neglecting his wife (Rushmore's Olivia Williams).

Naturally, Malcolm is the only one who can really communicate with young Cole -- except of course for the dead people who are literally driving Cole crazy. But are these ghosts real or just a figment of Cole's tortured imagination? Either way, Shyamalan would have had a tough time concluding his film. Unfortunately, the choice he makes sends the movie into mere horror-film territory, away from the realistically chilling first half. The surprise ending, though, is quite the humdinger.

--Mark Bazer

Full Length Reviews
The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense

Capsule Reviews
The Sixth Sense

Other Films by M. Night Shyamalan
Wide Awake

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