In one of the lighter scenes in the new horror thriller THE SIXTH SENSE from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) tries to gain the confidence of his young patient Cole (Haley Joel Osment) by performing a magic sleight of hand routine with a penny. The trick doesn’t really work for Cole who calls it “stupid,” but it does work quite well as a metaphor for the plot of THE SIXTH SENSE, which manages to keep its audience’s attention riveted to the screen through one long sleight of hand trick.
The movie begins with Dr. Crowe celebrating his latest professional achievement at home with his beautiful wife Anna (Olivia Williams). The night is not to end on a good note, which sets the stage for trouble on the homefront for the rest of the drama. As it turns out, Dr. Crowe is not completely satisfied with the success he has enjoyed in his medical profession of psychiatry. He feels he has failed some of his former patients by providing them with perhaps wrong and inadequate treatment. When young Cole, a reticent young boy who is apparently going through some difficult and troubling psychological trauma, comes along, he jumps at the chance to redeem himself. It seems Cole is capable of seeing, hearing and even touching dead people who exist all around him. In one revealing scene, he confesses to Dr. Crowe that some of the dead people he comes across from time to time, “Do not even know they’re dead.”
Cole’s “gift” is even more distressing to his single mom, Lynn (Toni Collette), who is, herself, desperately trying to keep afloat as she tries to manage her own disturbed life and keep a steady job while taking care of her troubled young son. As Dr. Crowe slowly but eventually completely gains Cole’s confidence, Cole becomes more willing to trust the Doctor with his “secrets,” and chilling secrets they are indeed. Through it all, however, Dr. Crowe’s marriage seems to be quickly unraveling under all the strain. Beautiful Mrs. Crowe has no lack of suitors hovering around as vultures willing to take up the slack. In this context, Dr. Crowe feels he has to make a decision between continuing therapy with young Cole or attempting to salvage his marriage.
Cole by now is convinced that he is some kind of a freak. He is devastated when he learns that his only hope to find an answer to what is happening to him, Dr. Crowe’s treatment, is about to come to an end. Cole ultimately will not be left alone to contend with his difficulties, but in the final twist, and with more clever sleight of hand, it becomes quite clear that all is not what it seems, and all that it seems is not what it is.
THE SIXTH SENSE is more reminiscent of movies such as THE RESURRECTION OF PETER PROUD and GHOST than such more straight-up ghost movies like THE HAUNTING or POLTERGEIST. Along with some of the typical roller coaster ride chills common to the horror film genre, this movie also has a human, melancholic dimension to it which makes it more intelligent and satisfying than the typical thriller. It was a pleasure to see Bruce Willis acting more, and exploding things less. He re-establishes himself as a dramatic force. Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe is disappointing, however, one of the weakest links in the movie. Toni Collette as Cole’s battle weary mother is not only a beautiful screen actress, but puts on a first-rate performance. Haley Jole Osment as Cole is good, but then, his is the type of role many other young actors would have done just as well, just because they are cute kids.
Although THE SIXTH SENSE leaves lots of loose ends and ultimately cannot stand up to close scrutiny, it fatally marred by an occult notion of spirits of dead people walking among us. Perhaps someone should point out to Cole what God says about this:
“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.”
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (NIV)
Occult false religious worldview postulating that the spirits of the dead walk among us with occult elements where boy protects himself from the dead with religious icons; one obscenity; mild action violence including shooting, poisoning & implied car crash; no sex; upper male nudity; and, no other objectionable content.