Friday, September 5, 2014

The Sixth Sense (1999) Review:

After Die Hard (1988) had permanently made actor Bruce Willis a go to action star, he could couldn't get himself out of it. He did manage to snag a few roles that were out of the action genre but none of them really stuck. At least, not until he decided to take part in this little project.  There's also something to say about this films director, M. Night Shyamalan. It may not be his first directorial or writing job, but he certainly shows the kind of potential he had from the beginning. Of course, for many viewers now a days he's missing his mark to the point of no return. However, that is a discussion for another time. Ghost stories are not a new thing; they've been told several different ways. However, something about this particular story does make it quite different from the rest.

Just an ordinary boy,...maybe
Psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), is given a case where a child, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is considered an outcast among his single mother and classmates for being strange for his own reasons. Along with this is Crowe's own subplot dealing with him trying to reconnect with his distant wife. Among the rest of the cast are other good actors which all pitch solid performances. Not one actor here gives a performance that isn't believable. In fact, for a horror film, it had several significant emotional moments along the way that helped define the its characters and gave them depth. Of these actors, Bruce Willis gave his most realistic showing that is not seen all too often. Frequently, Willis is playing sharp, hot-headed, wise-cracking characters. Here, he's the exact opposite - cautious, soft spoken and well-mannered. It's a nice change in character.

And of course with this inventive writing comes the respective errors. One big error is the continuity. The laws of how ghosts work are not kept clear to what their limitations are. An example of this would be how ghosts can touch certain physical objects and not others. Certain rules like these are difficult to follow, especially when it comes to certain plot points. When it came to the horror elements of this movie, it was effective in some areas, while others not so much. What did look well done were the practical effects. This helped create some disturbing images. Unfortunately, what didn't assist in making these images even creepier was the lighting and camera work. Tak Fujimoto, the cinematographer for Silence of the Lambs (1991) also worked for this project and his selection of lighting doesn't assist any of the jump scare moments in any fashion. If the whole scare shot is in total bright light from beginning to end, how is that going to be scary?

The face makes all the difference 
Musically related, James Newton Howard's score did its job accordingly. For the horror elements there were screeching strings and sudden percussion for the scares. This is typical but also doable. For the scenes with the more creep out factor, Howard used piano frequently that only relied on a number of keys to give that uneasy tone. Piano was also used for the more emotional scenes and they were probably the most effective due to the execution and writing behind the composition. It certainly did not have a memorable theme but its overall listening experience can be done solo without watching the movie. It is a decent movie with some apparent problems, but it still entertains.

Continuity flaws and authentic scares are not its strong points, but its creepy imagery, music and realistic practical effects help recover that loss. Along with that is Bruce Willis' most likable human performance to date with an interesting story and other believable showings from other actors.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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