And Now for Something Completely Scary
An amazing 11-year-old actor has managed to frighten me more completely than all the special effects of The Haunting and realistic camera shots of The Blair Witch Project put together. His name is Haley Joel Osment, and he’s largely responsible for the success of The Sixth Sense, a psychological thriller co-starring Bruce Willis.
With his soft voice, penetrating eyes, and apprehensive manner, Osment kept me spellbound as Cole, a small boy with a big secret. He sees ghosts everywhere. Refusing to discuss this with anyone, he becomes more and more disturbed. Child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) tries to help the fearful youngster by gaining his trust. Willis and Osment are wonderful in their emotional scenes together. They project a poignant rapport similar to that achieved by Harrison Ford and Lukas Haas in Witness.
Credit for those moving sequences goes not only to these fine actors but also to M. Night Shyamalan. This darkly handsome filmmaker may look more like a movie star (check out his cameo here as a doctor) than a writer/director, but his main interest lies in “creating motion pictures that stay with people and give them something to think about.”
During an interview in connection with his first film, Wide Awake, which also deals with a young boy and the supernatural, Shyamalan seemed enthusiastic about working with child actors. “They can be told how to say a line without feeling threatened,” he said. “With adults you have to be more diplomatic,” explained the 28-year old director. Shyamalan claims he was so impressed by Osment’s audition for The Sixth Sense, he decided not to make the movie unless Osment played Cole.
After Willis and Cole agreed to take on the key roles, the addition of Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding) was icing on the cake. And a delicious icing indeed! This Australian-born actress delivers a splendid performance. Her delicate mix of frustration and tenderness seems quite genuine. Besides being completely convincing as Cole’s concerned mother, she’s lovely to watch, even in her most tense moments.
Just as Shyamalan intended, The Sixth Sense left me with much to think about. It raises provocative questions about the afterlife and communication with the dead. In addition, this is one very scary movie! While the film’s surprise ending will shock many viewers, a few may realize what’s going on all along --- yet still feel its powerful impact. If you enjoy ghost stories, don’t miss this one.
(Released by Hollywood Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for intense thematic material and violent images.)