Wednesday, April 6, 2011

REVIEW: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan


What can you say about M. Night Shyamalan? Well, lots of derogatory things. But what about the movies he made that were actually not all out terrible as opposed to just…hollow, and without much feeling that isn’t sappy melodrama? That’s right. This is The Sixth Sense.

The film starts out with Bruce Willis and his wife celebrating an award the mayor gave him for being a great psychologist. They go upstairs to have hot steaming sex and decidedly do NOT notice the crazy man in his underwear standing in their bathroom waiting for them. That’s a real buzzkill on the sexual tension, guy. Don’t you have any tact? Next time wait till AFTER they’re done ravaging each other to go nuts. It’s just proper manners and all.

So yeah, this is apparently one of Willis’ old patients who feels like Willis didn’t help him at all and maybe even made his problems worse. He says everyone calls him a freak. He pulls out a gun from God knows where – he’s only wearing his underwear, remember; so I don’t know if I want to think about where it was before…and then he shoots Willis straight in the chest, not even giving him one chance to say anything. He then shoots himself as the camera fades to black…to “the next fall.”

We then see Willis sitting outside this house on a breezy autumn day right out of any given commercial. Haley Joel Osment comes out and runs down the street, with Willis in hot pursuit. He goes into a church to play with his toys, because that’s where you always went to play when you were a kid, right? I remember I used the holy water to make a flood on my GI Joes. And in the confessionals we played hide and seek. Oh the fun times I had.

"Don't you mess with the action figures. My Macaulay Culkin-esque demeanor does NOT approve!"

So yeah, this is Cole, one of Willis’ new patients apparently, who likes to follow him wherever he goes and try to get him to talk about his feelings. They have some conversations and Willis even comes back again the next day at Cole’s house, where Cole just doesn’t want to talk. Willis tells Cole that if he can guess what Cole is thinking, then Cole has to take steps forward until he’s sitting in the chair opposite Willis. Of course, Cole goes along with it, even though everything Willis asks seems to be pretty specific. I think in reality this question-and-answer exchange might go a little bit differently:

BRUCE WILLIS: You’re thinking that your mom abandoned you after your father left.

COLE: What are you talking about, wacko? I just got home from school and I want some Cheez-Its. *steps back*

Oh, and the kid also has a watch, which apparently his father gave him before he left. Hmmm…

Well, I guess we know what really happened to it. I’m glad that problem’s solved.

So after that, Cole goes to school again the next day, where his teacher asks the class what the history of the school is. Cole says people got hanged there, and the teacher says that it isn’t true. Cole thinks the teacher is looking at him funny and calls him out on it. Cole starts screaming violently at the guy, shouting “STUTTERING STANLEY, STUTTERING STANLEY!” over and over again. Yeah, apparently that’s what all the kids used to call the teacher when he was a kid. How Cole knows this isn’t yet explained, but it is really funny and probably the only part of this movie that really got a reaction out of me. I mean, it’s just so over the top goofy sounding. He just cups his ears and starts fucking screaming at the poor guy. On top of that, wouldn’t it suck to coincidentally have a name that starts with the same letter that your disability does? That’s just asking for it.

After Stuttering Stanley calls him a freak (is there no other insult in this world but ‘freak’?), Cole is sitting alone waiting for his mom when Bruce Willis comes in again. They have another conversation about Cole’s insecurity and I just have to wonder, how many times are they going to do this? It’s like the movie has such a short attention span that it thinks we wouldn’t get the point if they didn’t CRAM IT IN every five minutes that Willis is trying to help Cole out. We get it. You can do something else now. Oh, so Willis shows Cole a magic trick with a quarter? Big whoop.

So Cole gets invited to this other kid’s birthday party who he apparently doesn’t like. He shows the same trick with the quarter to some other kid, who promptly tells him it’s stupid. Cole is so frustrated at this that he leaves and goes upstairs, where a ghost is rattling around inside a cupboard. These two bullies happen to see him from downstairs, and follow him up there. Because all little kids aside from the main character are little douchenozzles with no human qualities, they lock him inside the cupboard as he screams for his life. Isn’t that just precious? Speaks volumes for the rights and protection of little children everywhere! His mom gets him out but by then he’s already fainted and has to be taken to the hospital.

Now, brace yourselves, audience. You’re about to witness one of the GREATEST…no, no, that won’t work…one of the MOST MEMORABLE…no, no, that isn’t it either…oh, I got it. YOU’RE ABOUT TO WITNESS ONE OF THE MOST OVER-USED POP CULTURE PHRASES OF THE 90S! As Willis comes into the hospital room – does he have any life besides tending to this kid? I mean, I’m glad to see a doctor taking a personal interest in his patients but GEEZ – Cole is lying there and says he’ll finally tell Willis his secret. He says “I see dead people.”

Well so do they, and look how they turned out!

Yup. That’s the big reveal. No big secret behind it, no explanation, no nothing. Just “I see dead people.” And we’re supposed to ACCEPT that, movie? We’re supposed to buy this obvious cop out of cheap writing? You expect me to just lie down and TAKE this?

…well, yeah. Yeah. That is what I’m going to do.

So apparently Cole sees ghosts everywhere and they try to talk to him. He’s afraid of them, so Willis tells him – apparently not questioning this at all or thinking about the repercussions of telling him to keep indulging in his could-be-insane-fantasies – to try and actually help the ghosts next time. The movie, ignoring the fact that this could be a potentially awesome plot for an entire other film, mostly shoves this into the last third of its running time. We see several ghosts roaming his house, including one kid that was shot in the head by his own father and a sick, diseased looking mom that slit her wrists trying to escape her abusive husband. So yeah. Those would make for interesting plotlines, right? These will really give the film the extra edge it needs to forever etch itself inside the viewer’s mind, right?

Too much oatmeal...

No, instead they go ONLY with the little girl whose mother poisoned her until she died, which I have to say is a much less interesting plot. What kind of fucked up parent would do that? Why? Well, I looked on the Wikipedia page for this movie and it claimed that this is actually a form of child abuse called Munchausen syndrome by proxy. How did Shyamalan know enough about this disease to include it in his movie? My guess is he spent a day looking through medical textbooks for some obscure disease that nobody in the mainstream would know about. But at least somebody’s being creative…not like you’d see that from him again in the future too much.

Then in the car later he tells his mom that he can see ghosts, citing that his grandmother comes to visit him all the time from beyond the grave and tells him that she’s proud of his mother every day. This provokes an extremely sappy and overdone scene that mostly makes me roll my eyes and tap my feet on the floor waiting for it to end.

Meanwhile, while that’s going on we get Willis’ side of the story. Apparently his wife doesn’t like the person he’s become after he got shot in the beginning of the film. Gee. I wonder why that is? It couldn’t possibly be because he’s been spending every waking moment with a little kid who claims to see ghosts, could it? Maybe she wouldn’t cheat on you if you actually gave her the time of day! Maybe if you…oh, wait, I’m sorry, we have a big stupid plot twist interrupting: HE’S BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME AND HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO ACCEPT IT! Through a montage of scenes we already saw in the movie, Shyamalan guides us safely through this whole thing without any confusion at all. Because, as the viewers, we are far too stupid to figure it out for ourselves. Aw. How nice of him.

So yeah, The Sixth Sense; it’s pretty much lame and yet everyone loves it for some reason. Admittedly, this is a lot better than most of the bullshit I review on this blog. It’s decently acted, the story is told OK and the recurring themes and elements are well done for a pop film intended for wide audiences. It might not be the most intelligent or the most emotional film out there, and it doesn't delve as much into Cole's psyche and problems as I would have liked, but I can at least kind of see why people like it so much. Even if I think it’s pretty boring and silly. But enough of that shit. It’s time to review the Cube movies.