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JulyDiaz

The Sixth Sense

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Paul and Amy see dead people in 1999's supernatural drama The Sixth Sense! They debate how Haley Joel Osment's performance compares to modern child actors, explain how the famous twist is accomplished through misdirection, and dive deep into the career of Tommy Tammasimo, Plus: Actor and magician Rob Zabrecky explains what it's like to perform a seance.

 

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In the late 90s, I handled the artwork and marketing materials for the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, which is north of Philadelphia. Greg Wood (Mischa Barton's dad) and Janis Dardaris (that terrifying woman in the kitchen) were in the repertory at the time, and it was a kick to see local actors I knew in a movie like this. They were the best! 

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I'm still finishing the pod, but I wanted to react to Amy's comment about Willis' acting. She mentions that he had some emotion in the first scene, but is too stiff for the remainder of the film. Is this not because he's no longer human from then on? I sort of took this as a conscious decision, and not bad acting.  He's supposed to be distant and sort of odd, right?

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also some more random thoughts:

1. I vividly remember seeing this movie in 1999 and how great it was in the theater with a full crowd. Seeing it again was certainly a very different experience, but I still dug it... though I think knowing the twist also made the 'flaws' in the story more visible. They mentioned on the pod the inconsistency of the temperature dropping, and I think that's a good example -- but even just the basic visibility of ghosts, or their anger, or who communicates and how, seems inconsistent to me. It all just happens at the convenience of the story, and not due to any established 'rules.'  Maybe I just haven't pieced it all together, but this could and should have been tightened up, I think.

2. I love the way the movie builds up to Cole conquering his fear and being able to help these ghosts out.  In that way, it's a super hero origin story, right?  He has power now!  I want to see him use it more. I'd say the two best scenes are when he helps the sick girl and with his Mom in the car. We need more of those!  Especially after seeing the hell Cole went through in the first half, these scenes are SOOO satisifying and awesome.

3. Rob Zabrecky! he played bass on a song or two on Beck's Mellow Gold album (his cool band Possum Dixon was from the same early 90s LA scene). It was cool to hear him here.

4. Maybe the definition of 'horror' has changed, but I really don't think of this as a horror film.

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1 minute ago, AlmostAGhost said:

also some more random thoughts:

1. I vividly remember seeing this movie in 1999 and how great it was in the theater with a full crowd. Seeing it again was certainly a very different experience, but I still dug it... though I think knowing the twist also made the 'flaws' in the story more visible. They mentioned on the pod the inconsistency of the temperature dropping, and I think that's a good example -- but even just the basic visibility of ghosts, or their anger, or who communicates and how, seems inconsistent to me. It all just happens at the convenience of the story, and not due to any established 'rules.'  Maybe I just haven't pieced it all together, but I think this could and should have been tightened up, I think.

2. I love the way the movie builds up to Cole conquering his fear and being able to help these ghosts out.  In that way, it's a super hero origin story, right?  He has power now!  I want to see him use it more. I'd say the two best scenes are when he helps the sick girl and with his Mom in the car. We need more of those!  Especially after seeing the hell Cole went through in the first half, these scenes are SOOO satisifying and awesome.

3. Rob Zabrecky! he played bass on a song or two on Beck's Mellow Gold album (his cool band Possum Dixon was from the same early 90s LA scene). It was cool to hear him here.

4. Maybe the definition of 'horror' has changed, but I really don't think of this as a horror film.

I was in the middle of writing something but I stopped just so I can say how much I agree with your 4th point. This is not a horror film in my books. Like Paul was talking about dramas having moments of levity, we sort of exist is this world where some people don't like mixing of elements or tones which is silly. You can use whatever tools you want to tell the story the best it can be told. Does Hamlet become horror because there is a ghost? There are witches in Macbeth while we are at it. Clearly that's horror. This is a character drama. Yes there are ghosts in it, yes some of the moment may give you the chills, but at the end of the day this movie was not made to scare you. It may have some moments and elements but it is trying to tell a character based drama. 

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13 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

1. I vividly remember seeing this movie in 1999 and how great it was in the theater with a full crowd. Seeing it again was certainly a very different experience, but I still dug it... though I think knowing the twist also made the 'flaws' in the story more visible. They mentioned on the pod the inconsistency of the temperature dropping, and I think that's a good example -- but even just the basic visibility of ghosts, or their anger, or who communicates and how, seems inconsistent to me. It all just happens at the convenience of the story, and not due to any established 'rules.'  Maybe I just haven't pieced it all together, but this could and should have been tightened up, I think.

I have to add, as a wild ghost enthusiast, that the inconsistencies is actually really appropriate and most life like. Not every apparition will have the same amount of energy and will be able to communicate the same, even to someone that is considered a medium. Apparitions can make themselves known by temperature change, voice, moving objects, shadow people, or even full bodied apparitions. Now this all comes down to whether or not you really believe in this, but let's argue that you do because I know I do and once I could swear I smelled my grandmother's perfume as I walked down the hallway of a house she had never been to before she died. A friend of mine has always claimed that she is more sensitive to these things and has seen multiple full bodied apparitions, and sometimes just feels the presence rather than sees it. Once she told me she felt someone sit on her bed and lie down next to her but when she looked there was no one there. So in my opinion Cole's difference in who can communicate with him and how is rather life like based on other's irl that claim to see things themselves. Basically I think that there aren't any established rules in the movie because there aren't any in real life either.

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16 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

I have to add, as a wild ghost enthusiast, that the inconsistencies is actually really appropriate and most life like. Not every apparition will have the same amount of energy and will be able to communicate the same, even to someone that is considered a medium. Apparitions can make themselves known by temperature change, voice, moving objects, shadow people, or even full bodied apparitions. Now this all comes down to whether or not you really believe in this, but let's argue that you do because I know I do and once I could swear I smelled my grandmother's perfume as I walked down the hallway of a house she had never been to before she died. A friend of mine has always claimed that she is more sensitive to these things and has seen multiple full bodied apparitions, and sometimes just feels the presence rather than sees it. Once she told me she felt someone sit on her bed and lie down next to her but when she looked there was no one there. So in my opinion Cole's difference in who can communicate with him and how is rather life like based on other's irl that claim to see things themselves. Basically I think that there aren't any established rules in the movie because there aren't any in real life either.

Hmm that's really interesting, and not one I'd considered.  But, no, I don't believe in ghosts, so that could be why I want and look for those 'rules'.  Regardless, I still think some consistency there would help from a storytelling point-of-view.  There may be different ghost rules across different ghost stories, but within one ghost story, I think it needs to follow some ghost logic.

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3 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Hmm that's really interesting, and not one I'd considered.  But, no, I don't believe in ghosts, so that could be why I want and look for those 'rules'.  Regardless, I still think some consistency there would help from a storytelling point-of-view.  There may be different ghost rules across different ghost stories, but within one ghost story, I think it needs to follow some logic.

I guess this is when it really does come down to personal preference and belief ya know? Cause I'm totally opposite and usually the ghost movies with one type and a strict set of rules are my least favorite. I'm way more into the randomness of it all because that's what makes it so scary to me.

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I hate to be this person so early on but I think this one of the most overrated movies of all time. The fact that it is even in the Top 100 of all time I find incredibly baffling. That's not to say that this is a bad movie. It's not. It's an okay movie with two great performances and there is Bruce Willis. I'm sure I'm not alone on this so I don't want to harp on the twist too much, but to me the greatest flaw of this movie for me is how much it centers on that twist. I agree 100% with Amy that there are scenes like the magic trick scene which are just M Night trying to tell us that he's got a secret and begging us to notice or find out. They are like little self indulgent road bumps along the story. There are so many things like the wardrobe that make no sense when you think about it. He's allowed to change or customize his clothing because of what he touched that night? Why? That's note a "rule" of ghosts. It's not even a rule the other ghosts in the film get. It is a rule created to "throw you off the trail" of the twist. In addition you have other ghosts in the film like the cyclist who have clothes that have blood or signs of their injuries on them. So why are Cole's clothes clean? He's in denial so he can't see it? Does that mean the cyclist has just accepted their death? In addition where is the gore? We see other ghosts in the film with their cause of death wounds visible, so does that mean Bruce is walking around with a bullet wound and just unaware of it? Or is it a denial thing yet everything other ghost is in acceptance? So much of what they allow him to do is entirely to serve the purpose of getting you not to expect the twist despite the film stopping in moment to tell you a twist is coming and you won't believe it. I find it slightly insulting. Instead of putting a twist in a leaving clues for people to figure it out, they go out of their way to muddy the waters and it is not to help tell a better story it is for the sole purpose of pointing a finger at the audience and saying "gotcha!"

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25 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Hmm that's really interesting, and not one I'd considered.  But, no, I don't believe in ghosts, so that could be why I want and look for those 'rules'.  Regardless, I still think some consistency there would help from a storytelling point-of-view.  There may be different ghost rules across different ghost stories, but within one ghost story, I think it needs to follow some ghost logic.

I agree with this statement. While I agree this is not a horror film, but one thing in my opinion all good horror films do is establish the rules and makes sure the audience knows the rules and can follow them. You can make up whatever rules you like, but you need to follow those rules.

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11 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

I agree with this statement. While I agree this is not a horror film, but one thing in my opinion all good horror films do is establish the rules and makes sure the audience knows the rules and can follow them. You can make up whatever rules you like, but you need to follow those rules.

But could it be that the rule of ghosts in this movie is that it's random?

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3 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

But could it be that the rule of ghosts in this movie is that it's random?

I would buy that more if they were all different opposed to Cole being the only different one and he also happens to be the only one that doesn't follow the rules that make him seem like a ghost. If the rules are random the are also very conveniently random.

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5 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

I would buy that more if they were all different opposed to Cole being the only different one and he also happens to be the only one that doesn't follow the rules that make him seem like a ghost. If the rules are random the are also very conveniently random.

I definitely agree that the randomness is convenient. But I would also argue that a lot of the times we are following Bruce Willis or seeing things through his perspective. Usually we only see Haley's perspective when he sees other ghosts. In that sense I would say that if Bruce's idea of things is that he is very much alive then the audiences would be too. Like if he thinks he is changing his clothes then we think he is changing his clothes, and he had his wedding ring on the whole time until the very end when his wife drops it and he looks down to see it's no longer on his finger. I think that a lot of the work to convince the audience that he isn't dead is simply because we follow him around and he has no idea himself.

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Also, to the point that Bruce only effected the temperature at the end, wasn't Haley cold in the hospital when he told Bruce about seeing dead people? Did I imagine that you could see him shivering as he said it?

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2 hours ago, Cam Bert said:

I was in the middle of writing something but I stopped just so I can say how much I agree with your 4th point. This is not a horror film in my books. Like Paul was talking about dramas having moments of levity, we sort of exist is this world where some people don't like mixing of elements or tones which is silly. You can use whatever tools you want to tell the story the best it can be told. Does Hamlet become horror because there is a ghost? There are witches in Macbeth while we are at it. Clearly that's horror. This is a character drama. Yes there are ghosts in it, yes some of the moment may give you the chills, but at the end of the day this movie was not made to scare you. It may have some moments and elements but it is trying to tell a character based drama. 

It has some scary scenes of hauntings, but yeah probably not strictly a "horror" movie. This reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro's description of Crimson Peak, which is that it wasn't a horror movie, it was a gothic romance with a ghost in it. I feel similarly about The Sixth Sense: it's a mystery and character drama with ghosts in it.

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1 hour ago, Cam Bert said:

I agree with this statement. While I agree this is not a horror film, but one thing in my opinion all good horror films do is establish the rules and makes sure the audience knows the rules and can follow them. You can make up whatever rules you like, but you need to follow those rules.

I agree that this isn't a horror movie. While I'm not sure what the definition of horror is, I think its primary goal (or one of its primary goals) is to scare people and I don't think that is The Sixth Sense's goal except for a couple sequences. I can see why some people consider it horror though.

1. I remember people in 1999 saying it was scary. Not everyone but certainly some enough people to earn a reputation as a scary movie.

2. I'm not sure horror has a really strict definition and certainly not a long time ago. People like Edgar Allen Poe are considered horror writers and some of their best known works aren't strictly horror in my mind. So, if you look at The Raven or Telltale Heart or Cask of Amantillado (just pretend I spelled that right) as lumped in with horror, then Sixth Sense kind of fits in with that vaguely gothic, dramatic, tense kind of story. Especially when the line between horror and thriller is very blurry.

3. Horror gets very little respect. There's a running criticism or dismissal of movies as "just horror" meaning they aren't important or can't mean something the way "important" movies like Citizen Kane are "important". Or potential horror movies being labeled thrillers instead of horror. So I perceive a lot of horror fans really wanting anything with horror elements to be considered horror especially if it is critically adored. It helps horror get more respect.

I think that's why a vocal group of people want to say "Shape Of Water is a horror movie! It has a monster in it! Why don't Hollywood call this the horror movie it is?" Or as Syncasey said about Crimson Peak. Even something like Get Out which has terrifying elements in it, some people were reluctant to call it horror. There's a desperation to get respect for horror.

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3 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I'm still finishing the pod, but I wanted to react to Amy's comment about Willis' acting. She mentions that he had some emotion in the first scene, but is too stiff for the remainder of the film. Is this not because he's no longer human from then on? I sort of took this as a conscious decision, and not bad acting.  He's supposed to be distant and sort of odd, right?

For the record, this guy on the FB group is not me lol
 

 

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34 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

I agree that this isn't a horror movie. While I'm not sure what the definition of horror is, I think its primary goal (or one of its primary goals) is to scare people and I don't think that is The Sixth Sense's goal except for a couple sequences. I can see why some people consider it horror though.

1. I remember people in 1999 saying it was scary. Not everyone but certainly some enough people to earn a reputation as a scary movie.

2. I'm not sure horror has a really strict definition and certainly not a long time ago. People like Edgar Allen Poe are considered horror writers and some of their best known works aren't strictly horror in my mind. So, if you look at The Raven or Telltale Heart or Cask of Amantillado (just pretend I spelled that right) as lumped in with horror, then Sixth Sense kind of fits in with that vaguely gothic, dramatic, tense kind of story. Especially when the line between horror and thriller is very blurry.

3. Horror gets very little respect. There's a running criticism or dismissal of movies as "just horror" meaning they aren't important or can't mean something the way "important" movies like Citizen Kane are "important". Or potential horror movies being labeled thrillers instead of horror. So I perceive a lot of horror fans really wanting anything with horror elements to be considered horror especially if it is critically adored. It helps horror get more respect.

I think that's why a vocal group of people want to say "Shape Of Water is a horror movie! It has a monster in it! Why don't Hollywood call this the horror movie it is?" Or as Syncasey said about Crimson Peak. Even something like Get Out which has terrifying elements in it, some people were reluctant to call it horror. There's a desperation to get respect for horror.

I believe that horror has different subsets just like any other genre has. Not all comedies are the same and neither are all dramas, but I definitely wouldn't put either Crimson Peak nor Shape of Water into the horror genre just because it has supernatural elements to them. But I still would put The Sixth Sense into the category because even in the drama sense of it I still find it rather terrifying. It's terrifying as a mother to not have any clue what's happening to your child and then find out he can see dead people, and it's terrifying that a mother would have the ability to kill her own children for attention. It's not just the ghosts that make this scary in my mind, it's the real world aspects as well. I compare it a lot to The Witch, which a lot of people got PISSED at because they said "nothing scary happens," but in my mind the unnerving aspect of watching this family turn on each other and lose themselves to the witch is absolutely scary. Jump scares shouldn't be what makes something into a horror film imo.

But with Get Out specifically, Jordan calls it a horror film so I think that out of that no one really gets to tell the creator otherwise.

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Yea. Those drama real-world frights you mention are the real scares in the movie.  The actual ghosts are not all that terrifying, really, beyond just their presence (usually as a surprise for the viewer).  That's why I wanted more of those scenes -- let Haley go into the scary real world, with ghosts helping him out, and have him confront the horrors of reality.  A woman with Munchausen Syndrome where she hurts her children?  No match for Cole!  Single mother needs encouragement?  That's an affecting ghost story if you ask me. 

(I still think Sixth Sense comes very close to this, but doesn't quite go all the way with it.)

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2 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea. Those drama real-world frights you mention are the real scares in the movie.  The actual ghosts are not all that terrifying, really, beyond just their presence (usually as a surprise for the viewer).

I think that might be what kind of disqualifies it as a horror movie in my mind. In a horror movie, it's the supernatural/fantastical elements that actively cause harm to the protagonists. The ghosts in The Sixth Sense aren't trying to do that, similar to the one in Crimson Peak or the monster in Shape of Water. In something like Get Out, the fantastical element is the hypnosis/body transfer, and that is a deliberate harm to the protagonist.

Maybe the one exception in this movie is when HJO gets locked in that small closet and comes out with bruises, but even there I think the suggestion is that the ghost is trying to communicate, and the harm is inadvertent.

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25 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think that might be what kind of disqualifies it as a horror movie in my mind. In a horror movie, it's the supernatural/fantastical elements that actively cause harm to the protagonists. The ghosts in The Sixth Sense aren't trying to do that, similar to the one in Crimson Peak or the monster in Shape of Water. In something like Get Out, the fantastical element is the hypnosis/body transfer, and that is a deliberate harm to the protagonist.

Maybe the one exception in this movie is when HJO gets locked in that small closet and comes out with bruises, but even there I think the suggestion is that the ghost is trying to communicate, and the harm is inadvertent.

That's a really interesting qualifier that I hadn't considered before but in more recent years there have been some films within the horror genre that have come out where our protagonist is actually the one doing the most damage/the "monster." The three examples I can think of are Raw (French) and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Iranian) and Let the Right One In (Swedish). I would probably say that the middle could be considered not a horror film but IMDB still has that as one of it's two genres. I wonder if this is like a European thing where the monsters of our nightmares get stories where they end up being the ones we cheer for in the end?

ETA: OH! And The Others! That's probably a horror movie that can be directly compared to Sixth Sense due to its similar twist ending. I also loved that movie lmao.

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Ohhh Let The Right One In and A Girl Walks Home are awesome!!  If those, and The Sixth Sense, are horror -- I guess maybe I am a horror fan.  I tend to think of horror as the bloody murderer disgusting stuff.  Like, there's a difference to me between "Scary" and "Horror."  But maybe there isn't?

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35 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

That's a really interesting qualifier that I hadn't considered before but in more recent years there have been some films within the horror genre that have come out where our protagonist is actually the one doing the most damage/the "monster." The three examples I can think of are Raw (French) and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Iranian) and Let the Right One In (Swedish). I would probably say that the middle could be considered not a horror film but IMDB still has that as one of it's two genres. I wonder if this is like a European thing where the monsters of our nightmares get stories where they end up being the ones we cheer for in the end?

ETA: OH! And The Others! That's probably a horror movie that can be directly compared to Sixth Sense due to its similar twist ending. I also loved that movie lmao.

Yeah, that's an interesting point. Sometimes a horror movie inverts it and makes the protagonist the monster. Sixth Sense doesn't really do that either, but you've mentioned some good examples here.

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I don't know - I feel like if you want to say that a movie about a boy who is scared sh*tless because he can see ghosts isn't actually a horror movie, then there needs to be another well-known category that fits. I could see something like TV Guide calling this a "Supernatural Drama," but how big would that category get if you tried to separate it from Horror? I think we all just have to be okay with the fact that there is a lot of grey area and enjoy films for what they are. If a movie veers outside of what we expected of it based on whatever label somebody put on it...does it really matter as long as it's good? 

Despite the quibbles some people are sharing here, I do think this is a really good movie. It was probably downgraded in a lot of peoples' minds as they got to know more about Shyamalan and were disappointed by some of his other movies, but I generally think it's our responsibility to judge each film on its individual merits as much as is possible (obviously there are some movies that flatly ask us to consider them in light of others).  

89 seems about right to me, although I'm sure I could probably list 90 movies I like or admire more than The Sixth Sense.

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