Horror films and the Oscars don’t really go hand-in-hand, which may explain why, as of 2012, only four of the genre have ever been nominated in the Best Film category. One of those is M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Released in 1999, The Sixth Sense became an unexpected commercial smash hit recouping over $670m at the box office from its budget of $40m. It earnt an Oscar nomination for child actor Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette and launched the career of M. Night Shyamalan.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist from Philadelphia who on the way home from an awards ceremony with his wife Anna (Olivia Williams) discovers an ex-patient (Donnie Wahlberg) has broken in who blames Malcolm for not helping him and shoots him. The following fall Malcolm and his wife are still living together, but do not communicate with each other and so Malcolm throws every waking moment into trying to help a young boy called Cole Sear (Osment) who has a similar condition to the shooter. After a few sessions Cole reveals that he is scared because he sees the ghosts of dead people everywhere he goes.
The journey of The Sixth Sense to the screen was something of a troubled production. The script originally bought by the then head of Disney David Vogel for $2m led in part to his removal from his position and due to a lack of faith in the idea saw it sold to Spyglass Entertainment. However it was eventually made with writer M. Night Shyamalan given the responsibility of directing.
Combining all the dullest colours onto the films pallet gives a creepy and almost supernatural tinge to proceedings and the brief glimpses of red help Shyamalan show the moments when the real world is touched by the supernatural. But when people think of The Sixth Sense, it is the twist that is the most memorable thing, being that it caught so many people by surprise. Yet when watched again, there are clear hints of an upcoming revelation with the camera slowly zooming in on Bruce Willis’ face during the most famous scene as well as Cole teaching Malcolm how to tell a story “you should include twists.” Like all the best twists, The Sixth Sense provides you with enough information, but not so much that it’s obvious.
A combination of superb performances, detailed direction and one of the best twists in all of film help to establish The Sixth Sense as a true modern horror classic. The line I see dead people has firmly positioned itself in the lexicon of horror phrases and is as memorable today as it was on release.