If you remove the twist in The Sixth Sense, the movie still offers plenty to surprise you. For starters, this is one of the most under-stated performances by Bruce Willis. He plays a child psychologist, helping a small boy who has a dark secret. There are no explosions here, no bad guys to punch or even quip one-liners to deliver. The Sixth Sense is an example of why Bruce Willis is a great actor, a high he is struggling to return to.
The second surprise may be how scary The Sixth Sense actually is. This is a ghost story. Haley Joel Osment’s Cole can communicate with the dead but this isn’t necessarily a positive thing. Some of the scenes are genuinely creepy, particularly one involving a tent and another in the hallway of a school.
It helps that Osment’s performance manages to match that of Willis’. He sells the terror of his gift perfectly, particularly in some of the painful scenes with Cole’s Mum, played by an underrated Toni Collette. In fact, Toni Collette is part of the charm of this movie and plays host to the third surprise this film holds.
The Sixth Sense has got heart. There is a sad story at the center of this spooky tale, lots of them and they are delivered brilliantly. Considering this was writer and director M Night Shyamalan’s first feature movie, it shows a mastery of balancing the horror with the poignant and the acting manages to support this. A scene shared between Cole and his Mom in a car, finally healing the rift between them, is one which will pull at even the coldest of heartstrings.
Of course, there is that final surprise. The one that made The Sixth Sense the iconic movie it became. Some twists feel like they have been bolted-on or are an after-thought but the revelation in the third act of The Sixth Sense is one of the best ever. It is delivered with such a shock that it almost seems unbelievable. It also manages to elicit yet another fantastic scene, this time featuring Bruce Willis and his wife.
It also means the movie is highly re-watchable. The Sixth Sense is actually made better by it’s twist and once you know the revelation, you can re-watch the movie and see how successfully this is achieved. It is almost like a trick, with great camera work, impressive performances and an eye for detail that is surprising from a first-time director.
Overall, The Sixth Sense is a masterclass is horror, suspense but also emotion. Dealing with grief, regret and ghosts, it balances a great story with some impressive performances. There are a lot of surprises in Shyamalan’s debut, including one of the greatest twists in the movies.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)