R4 . COLOR . 103 mins .
M15+ . PAL
The Sixth Sense was a surprise hit back in 1999, and is not your average horror film. It doesn’t use the normal cliched tricks of cats jumping out of bins, or psycho-killers running amok with knives, to scare. Instead, it uses mood and ever-evolving character to build the suspense – and of course that wonderful twist.
Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is an awarded child psychologist who clearly loves his job, even if he occasionally fails to actually help his patients. His life is forever changed when one of those kids he failed turns up in his house and shoots Crowe before turning the gun on himself.
"Gees, Mom. I see dead people but you can't even see a stop sign."
The story moves forward, and Crowe has a new patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). Cole is an introverted boy with a secret he is unable to share, but it is tearing him up. With time, effort, and a building of trust, Crowe manages to squeeze the secret out of Cole, that he sees ghosts and it terrifies him. He begs Crowe to help him, as he doesn’t want to be scared anymore.
Crowe sees many similarities between Cole and the young man that broke into his house and shot him, but is also trying to save his marriage as his work takes up more of his time. His wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), is becoming distant and refusing to talk to him. Crowe receives a final wakeup slap with the arrival of a man trying to win her affections.
"I see dead people."
Still hoping that he can help Cole and save his marriage, he makes certain discoveries that he is sure will help young Cole, and afford him some peace. Just when you think everything will work out fine comes that final twist, and one of the more unforeseen twists at that. A few buffs have claimed they saw it coming, and while they may have, it provides more enjoyment, I’m sure, if the twist is unexpected.
"...but dead people can't see me."
The Sixth Sense is one of the few horror films that has an impact even on subsequent viewing, and you will find yourself picking up on small clues that you missed the first time around. The acting from the exceptional cast is a definite highlight. Willis shows his ability to play interesting and fragile, Osment is unbelievably gifted in understanding his character and playing the role, and Australia’s Toni Collette is effective as Cole’s mother. The three leads deserved their Academy Award nominations. Even the short screen time for not-so New Kid On the Block, Donny Wahlberg, shows the boy actually has talent after all.
M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is excellent. He has pushed the actors and they have delivered. There is a genuine level of tension that increases as the characters develop and the answers reveal themselves, and a few scenes will cause you to jump ever so slightly.
If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense then you should. If you have been waiting for a 'Collector’s Edition', then this is as good as it will get, and is better value than the original release. If you are looking to upgrade, you may not be quite so enthusiastic, and hopefully, films from now on will get a full package release in the first place. This may ease the frustration of those that buy a DVD just to see it upgraded 12 months later.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and 16:9 enhanced, this is a fine looking transfer with minimal problems. The image is quite sharp and clear, with good definition. Colours are deliberately on the dark side to compliment the feel of the film. There is no evidence of noise and skin tones are fine. Black levels are generally good, only once or twice appearing a little blue/grey. Shadow detail is very good which is a bonus for a film that has many darkened scenes.
"I see people whose careers are dead too."
There is no noticeable edge enhancement, which was a real possibility with so many darkened scenes. There is some grain in a few scenes, but it is minimal overall. There is some slight aliasing and shimmer, and a few white specks that flash by from time to time. They are infrequent and not a distraction.
The layer change is well placed during a black out at 51:45 and will pass unnoticed on many players. Overall, this is a good-looking transfer and the few drawbacks are not really enough to warrant genuine concern.
The addition of a DTS 5.1 track in this 'Collector’s Edition' is welcome, even if it is only marginally superior to the existing Dolby Digital 5.1. You will need to select this DTS track from the 'Language' sub-menu. The overall sound is directed very much to the front speakers, especially dialogue that comes from the centre speaker and is clear, mostly audible and synchronised. Some lines are whispered and can be a bit frustrating, but this was a deliberate move by the director.
Low-level sounds are infrequent but solid, and really only ask the subwoofer to chip in occasionally. The music score is mostly quite subtle, and placed with some overflow into the rear speakers that also carry very subtle ambient sounds. There are only one or two occasions where the rear speakers take on an aggressive and impacting role, but the film works fine without audio gymnastics.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is almost as good, just a little quieter, which may lead some to equate it with inferiority. The only real difference is that the DTS track sounds a little more expansive.
This 'Collector’s Edition' of The Sixth Sense has sensibly assembled all of the extras onto a second disc, and is quite a complete collection, the one omission many fans will bemoan being a commentary. Still, there is a great deal of director input in many of these extras, so a commentary would probably have added little. Be sure to watch the film before any of the extras, or you will open yourself up to some very major spoilers.
Reflections From the Set: With a great deal of input from the director and the cast, this is a very thorough and informative featurette lasting almost 40 minutes. Topics discussed include casting, preparing for and understanding the roles, the creative process and the director/writer’s desire to avoid cliches. It documents his early frustration with writing bland scripts, and his ultimate joy when he stumbled on the key elements that make The Sixth Sense a little different.
Between Two Worlds: The second of the only two new extras for this edition, and at over 37 minutes it's also substantial. It includes input from the writers of hits such as The Exorcist and Ghost and is a study of Hollywood’s portrayal of the link between our world and the after-life as conceived over the centuries.
The following extras are not new, and were included with the original DVD release of The Sixth Sense.
Moving Pictures: The Storyboard Process: At almost 15 minutes, this extra begins to drag after a while as there are only so many ways of saying the same thing. It discusses the role of storyboarding in the filmmaking process, and the transition of an idea from storyboard to film.
Music and Sound Design: This extra runs for six and a half minutes and looks at the role of music and sound in the film, and the source of the various sound effects. Composer James Newton Howard also gives us his thoughts on scoring the film. Several scenes are shown with just music and sound effects to highlight what they bring to a scene.
Reaching the Audience: This is a short look at the opening of the film to much acclaim, and record takings.
Rules and Clues: Those watching for the second time will begin to pick up on the many that lead to the film’s end twist. The more observant may pick up a few of them the very first time. Either way, this is an interesting extra and demonstrates how obvious the twist should have been.
Deleted Scenes: The director discusses each of these deleted scenes, and although an alternative ending is included, they're not particularly enlightening. They last a combined time of just under 15 minutes.
Publicity: A theatrical trailer and two television spots are included in this little package.
Filmmakers and Cast Biographies: For those who have to know who did what, and what the actors have done before this film, you will find all the answers here. These text only biographies are easy to read and cover just about all the major players.
The beauty of The Sixth Sense is that it is the kind of film you can watch several times, each time trying to spot the many things you missed the previous time(s). Those watching for the first time get the bonus thrill of the twist ending. The acting is extremely good and the basic story is entertaining and sufficiently different from most ‘ghost’ stories doing the rounds. This 'Collector’s Edition' now includes a DTS soundtrack and a couple of new extras that make it a value for money purchase. If you already own it on DVD, the choice to upgrade is yours, but is essentially unnecessary.