Reviewed by: Mia J. Burruss
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 Cole is withdrawn, but clearly conveys that he really is only scared and wants help.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