Movie Review

Sixth Sense

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material and violent images.

Reviewed by: Mia J. Burruss
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
107 min.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment, Donnie Wahlberg / Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Scene from The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis.

Everyone is familiar with a hunch, intuition, and/or perception. Each is intangible and involuntary, but most people rely on them every day. Cole Sear’s intuition is live and in color. His sixth sense breaks down the veil that seems to exist between the natural and the spiritual realm and it terrifies him. This is a gift that Cole does not want and one in which no one can seem to help.

Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) is an award-winning psychologist whose comfortable life is darkened when he meets with a former patient whom he failed to help. Because of his failure, he becomes obsessed with helping Cole Sear, a boy who can “see dead people.”

Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan creates great suspense by slowly unfolding the facts in this story. Like fearful thoughts that invade one’s head in the middle of the night, “Sixth Sense” creeps along quietly and stealthily with sudden surprising outbursts.

As Dr. Crowe, Willis lacks the range of emotion needed to communicate the doctor’s personal torment with failure and his new obsession with helping Cole. Anna Crowe, the doctor’s wife (Olivia Williams), is unfortunately not used to her potential by the director. Instead of crafting lines, Shyamalan uses a camera shot of an anti-depressant drug to show Anna’s emotional despair.

Willis may be the box office ringer, but the star of this movie is Cole (Haley Osment). Audiences may recognize Osment as “Forrest Junior” in “Forrest Gump”. Cole is withdrawn, but clearly conveys that he really is only scared and wants help. His portrayal captivates the audience and generates sympathy. Cole’s vulnerability is intensified because he is a child. If adults get scared at things that go bump in the night, how much more should this young child be terrified at the things that only he can see?

Lynn is Cole’s working-class mother (Toni Collette). As a single mother facing this challenge alone, Lynn says she prays to God for answers about her son’s problems but doesn’t know how to get any answers. Collete brings softness to her character, showing her own vulnerability and frustration in trying to keep life “normal” for Cole.

Cole often seeks sanctuary in the Catholic church when haunted by these dead people. Dr. Crowe figures out how Cole can cope with this “gift” and live a normal life. The choice not to visually overload the audience with computerized ghosts, rivers of blood and other special effects was a wise one by Shyamalan. It forces the audience to use their imagination, which can be much more frightful than the normal “gore feast” to which audiences have become dulled.

Shyamalan seems to be on his own search for answers to the question, “What happens to human spirits once they die?” A surprising twist ending will leave you thinking about this movie and replaying certain scenes in your head. Only once was God’s name taken in vain. There is very little profanity throughout the film and there is only partial nudity. The most disturbing aspect of this movie is how it promotes occult activities such as interaction with “dead spirits.” According to the Bible, the dead know nothing of this world. From a Christian perspective, these spirits would be known as familiar spirits rather than human spirits once alive and now in limbo.

The idea that the dead can communicate with the living is what keeps psychics in business. Interestingly, a popular television magazine program recently featured a story on a man formerly diagnosed as a schizophrenic who claims to be able to contact spirits of dead humans. His clients pay a minimum of $200 per hour to contact their dead relatives. The nation of Israel was instructed not to consort with mediums and people who consorted with any spirit other than that of God’s Spirit. “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31)

In the New Testament, the rich man who treated Lazarus the beggar poorly asked Abraham if Lazarus could be sent back to warn his family about hell. Abraham’s reply was, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:20-31). Put this same rich man in the context of “Sixth Sense” and he would have roamed the earth trying to get this message to his brothers before his final passage from the land of the living.

In the gospel of John, Jesus told His disciples that He wouldn’t leave them alone but He was going to send the Holy Spirit who would lead them into all truth. The Bible says to test the spirit by the Spirit (1John 4:1). For Christians, all spiritual prompting, leading and communication should come from God. Anything else is a counterfeit. The “sixth sense” according to the Bible is being led by the Holy Spirit or walking in the Spirit of God. The Bible says that whosoever believes in the scriptures and on Jesus can line their lives up with godly living and expect to be directed by the Holy Spirit.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments
TEN OUT OF TEN: an amazing film in the thriller genre. DISCLAIMER: “The Sixth Sense” is eerie and creepy throughout—at least one disturbing scene is best missed, so I strongly suggest seeing it with someone who can warn you ahead of time. ON THE OTHER HAND: Though I avoid horror/thriller films, I reluctantly went to this film, and found it to be superb filmaking if followed through to the end. NOT CHRISTIAN: How many thrillers are? NOT OCCULT: Uniquely, this film seems to confront evil, showing that good is the fundamental spiritual concept, and that justice for the innocent will be done. “The Sixth Sense” never actually becomes horror, and contrastingly redeems itself by the end. LOVE STORY/THRILLER COMBINED?: At the closing moments, the love of the main character and his wife is profoundly revealed—find another thriller that does that! THE ENDING!: Wouldn’t want to give it away. CONCLUSION: If you must see or can endure seeing this type of movie, give the “Blair Witch Project,” “Stigmata” and all the rest a big swerve, and just watch the “Sixth Sense.” My Ratings: [2/5]
—Todd Adams, age 32
“pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating”
Undoubtedly one of the most suprising endings I’ve ever seen! To say anything more would spoil it for those who have not seen it. The movie was very good, and very scary in the “creepy, chills down your spine” context rather than in Hollywoods usual “gore, spatter and splatter” vein, which I find refreshing. I never watch a gore flick—there’s nothing worth watching and such movies usually lack any decent plot, or at best contrive some basic plot that serves no function other than to glue all the various gore scenes together. That’s a pure waste of time. I agree with any other Christian reviewer that the Bible warns us, commands us not to attempt to communicate with the dead, but 1) the poor kid wasn’t trying and in fact wanted it to STOP, and 2) its a fictional movie and one would hope people would have sense enough not to go there looking for things to base their doctrine on. I have no problem at all with movies or stories just designed to give you a good fright, so long as they do not glamourize it or attempt to promote it as something worth pursuing oneself. The move doesn't—so good. If I have one negative comment it would be that this movie (and many others that seem to be coming out lately) are really pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating. This movie is NOT suitable for kids at all, no matter the PG-13 rating. It is just too intense, in my opinion for the PG-13 rating, and I would rather it have been rated R for strong visual content. But I half suspect that I am basing this opinion on the fact that I would not allow my ten year olds to see it. I don’t know how I might feel about it if they were actually in their teens. Creepy, suspenseful, very well done, with a good storyline that builds to an unbelievable finish. Well worth seeing.
—Kirby L. Wallace, age 35
I just saw the movie tonight for the first time. It was certainly well written. While I do believe the movie’s plot and theme is not based on Biblical truth, I must confess that it made me think about what is around us that we don’t see. Saul consulted a medium and the Bible says Samuel appeared to the seer by request of Saul 1 Sam 28:11-20. We certainly know that there is more around us then we see, multitudes of angels… and demons. The truth is, we should be greatful that God has shut our eyes and did not explain in detail what is around us. If he had, I believe we would fear far greater then the boy in this movie. Despite what today’s culture thinks, sometimes living requires ignorance of some things and certain knowledge of another (Jesus' sacrifice for us all).
—Philip Spitzer, age 22
I thought that the script and cinematography were excellent. I don’t think that Olivia Williams was underused given the surprise ending. Haley Joel Osment gave an incredible performance, one which caused me to be very disturbed at the torment he was going through during the course of the movie. I am concerned about the movie’s ability to encourage one who is already prone to, to dwell on the occult. Of course, one movie does not change the culture, but each one can be like a raindrop that eventually fills the bucket. We may poo-poo each movie’s impact, but we cannot ignore the overall effect.
—Wayne Stapleton, age 34
“gave me a awful feeling”
I went to watch this movie without knowing what it was about. When I sat there and started watching, I then realized this was a movie I planned on not seeing… after remembering the previews I had seen on television. I sat there with my friends for awhile and I kept thinking whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are just, think on these things. This movie gave me a awful feeling and I had to walk out within forty minutes from when it started. There is a real spirital battle in this world and to me Sixth Sense gave a good show of the enemy and his works. I don’t recommend it.
—Tarrah, age 22
“promotes the New Age”
I do not recommend this movie. If I were you I would not waste my time investing in promoting the New Age movement through Hollywood. …the minds of many americans have been lulled and brainwashed into thinking that there is a distinction between imagination. Imagination is part of reality and can effect your conscious mind… The bibles says to be consecrated, set apart, diferent, to not even mentioned the former things that the heathens do. Joking or being entertained by sin is sin…
—Jeramiah Giehl, age 23
unfair for us to expect a Christian worldview
The day I attend a showing of any film born out of the Hollywood machine and expect an accurate depiction of the metaphysical is the day I check myself into Happydale Sanitarium as a permanent resident. As Christians, it is simply unfair (and even a bit silly) for us to expect the unregenerate to emulate the world view and moral standards that only the regenerate may possess (through Christ). That being said, when judged apart from a reality that it could never understand or represent, “The Sixth Sense” is a great example of the subtlety that defines the pinnacle of the eerie/thriller genre. “The Sixth Sense” shares this sort of quiet tension and intriguing ending with another film that erroneously deals with the metanatural: Denzel Washington’s “Fallen.” Both leave the audience in wonderment and both stand apart from that which the Christian knows to be true of such supraphysical things, but both are quality films and worth the Three to Seven Bucks of admission.
—Seth T. Hahne, age 26
“well acted, crafted, and interesting”
I enjoyed this movie and saw it twice, though admittedly the second viewing was provoked by a desire to see the movie from the perspective of the surprised ending. As a Christian, it was clear from the start that the movie’s perspective of the afterlife is simply fallacious, but I still enjoyed the movie for being well acted, crafted, and interesting. Mia J. Buress’s review of the movie is excellent and I especially appreciated the review’s Biblical perspective of the afterlife. In fact, the movie would have been better if the boy had the ability to see the activities of Satan’s Demons (perhaps modeled after the CS Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters”) and God’s Angels interceding at God’s command in response to prayers. I do believe the “Sixth Sense” will encourage some to dally (further) into the occult, but only to those already inclined to do so before seeing the movie.
—Art Biele, age 47
“The Sixth Sense” was an excellent movie and was definitely worth the money I paid to see it. The reviewer’s criticism of the director’s underuse of Olivia Williams makes me think that she missed the ending and the reason why Bruce Willis' character was having trouble communicating with her. As for the criticism of Willis' performance, although I am no great fan, he did a good job. He expressed his frustration and concern for his patient believably, and demonstrated a convincing fear of inadequacy. The occult element of the story was to be expected given the title. And although I took a few objections, the film never offended.
—Belinda Clivens, age 24
Not for children
First, I must wholeheartedly agree with the reviewer that the subject of “communicating with spirits” must not be taken lightly. Christians are clearly commanded not to do it. Don’t make the mistake of letting your children view this movie, it has too many openings to the occult. Aside from this warning, I must say that I enjoyed this movie. It was very suspenseful and if you like scary movies, this one fits the bill. The ending took me by surprise, and made me completely rethink some of the events of the picture.
—Stephen Hall, age 34
I just watched the movie last evening and thought it was wonderful yet creepy!! One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time! It was certainly a pleasant departure from all the violence and gratuitious nudity thrown in to make a movie “good” . My two teenage sisters came with me and loved it as well. It is a haunting, deliberate film that uses the darkness and the shadows to evoke feelings of powerlessness and insecurity—those of the little boy’s world turned into nightmare by what he sees and no one else does. The acting was superb on the behalf of Cole who lent fear and credibility to the role as well as his mother’s role in being the longsuffering yet loving mother throughout the story. I certainly did NOT think that occult activity was encouraged. The gift the child had was necessary to tie the loose ends together and was for fictional purposes. Again you have to see it to believe that it was entirely amazing storytelling through a little boy’s eyes.
—Jennifer Go, age 22
“use extreme caution”
I would reccomend that anyone wanting to see this movie use extreme caution. I went to see it and was not able to sit through the whole thing. It was a very thought provoking and interesting movie. It was also very well done. However, it also deals with some very disturbing material.As a Christian, I know that there is real spiritual warfare going on out there, but the Bible says to think about what is good and pure, and holy. This movie (while just a fiction) leaves images in your head that are hard to get rid of and leads you to dwell on a side of the spiritual world that is not healthy to dwell on.
—Andrea, age 24
Excellent! (does not promote the occult)
This is by far one of the best movies this year. The kid actor did a tremendous job. Watching this movie you feel his fear. Dr. Crow’s wife was under used in the film but you understand why in the final few moments as any questions and plot holes are filled in with a surprise twist that left my jaw on the floor. I think Willis did a great job… certainly nothing to note about it negatively. As for the “Christian” perspective given in the above review I must say that I dissagree with the reviewer linking this movie to occult activity. I don’t look for Godly morals in a fictitious Hollywood movie. Lets let fiction be fiction and if there is a nuggett of truth here or there then that is great, and if a movie promotes a certain anit-biblical view then lets point that out. The gift this kid had in the movie was completely and entirely for the sake of fiction and the movie did not promote any kind of occult activity. It merely told a story, the same kind of stories that we all tell around the campfire. If you are looking for a good creepy movie then this is it. I give it a 10 out of 10. perfect. flawless.
—Stoney G deGeyter, age 27