Film Review: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1999 (Philadelphia premiere)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment, Donnie Wahlberg, Mischa Barton, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo)

Hollywood Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I want to tell you my secret now.” – Cole Sear

For those that don’t remember the world in 1999, The Sixth Sense scared about as many people as Y2K.

This is a creepy film that penetrated the subconscious of its audience and went on to make its director, M. Night Shyamalan, one of Hollywood’s new “it boys” at the time.

I haven’t seen this since it was in the theater but being that this is its twentieth anniversary, I wanted to revisit it.

It’s not as good as I remembered it and for a long time, I considered it Shyamalan’s second best film after Unbreakable. It is still a much better than decent picture but it is sort of ruined by knowing the twist. However, it was also sort of diminished by knowing young Cole’s secret thanks to the marketing of the film in 1999.

Seeing this now, it is eerie from start to finish but the fact that you were clued in to the fact that Cole can “see dead people” before ever seeing the film, really takes away from that reveal. Plus, you go through half of this film before you actually see a ghost on screen. The first half of the film, had you not known the secret, could have been interpreted as Cole having severe mental issues.

Cole’s secret isn’t the big plot twist though, that comes at the end when it is revealed that Bruce Willis’ Crowe has been dead since the opening scene. I remember being in the theater and hearing everyone gasp when this was spelled out to the audience. That caught me by surprise, as I detected the twist pretty early on and just assumed the audience was supposed to know this all along. There were just too many hints that spelled it out for me before it had to be audibly stated and confirmed by the characters.

I think that the film is effective in how it creates atmosphere and makes you connect to its characters. The thing is, this feels more like a solid pilot for a show than a self contained story within a single film. I think that maybe this should have been a film series or at least found a way to be ongoing on television or books even. I left this film wanting to see Cole do good work in bringing tortured souls some peace.

This film did a nice job of sort of legitimizing horror and making it a bit more mainstream at the time. But the following decade wouldn’t be too kind to the genre, anyway. And this isn’t so much horror at its core, as it just happens to be a solid drama about a child psychiatrist and his very troubled patient. There just happens to be dead people in the story.

My biggest mark against the film is that it is really drawn out and moves at a snail’s pace until dead people start showing up about 50 minutes into the movie. I do like slow builds and suspense but the first half of this movie could have been whittled down.

In the end, this still does a good job of making a real human connection with its audience and it conjures up a thick sense of dread. But I can’t really call The Sixth Sense a classic, despite its cultural impact for the time.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other M. Night Shyamalan movies.

Film Review: Tusk (2014)

Release Date: September 6th, 2014 (TIFF)
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Based on: SModcast #259: The Walrus & the Carpenter by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Génesis Rodríguez, Johnny Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp

Demarest Films, SModcast Pictures, A24, 102 Minutes

tuskReview:

Kevin Smith had an awful idea. Sure, it was fun fleshing out and debating over a podcast but that bad and bizarre idea became a film. It is now a film that Kevin Smith will have to live with as part of his film catalog that seems to get tarnished more and more with each release since the late 90s.

Maybe Smith never had it, maybe he was a one trick pony, maybe that less than a handful of films he did in the 90s were the best he’d ever produce. If you have ever wondered whether or not Kevin Smith was a hack and were still undecided, this film should make that decision much easier for you.

I don’t want to hate on Smith. I’m part of that group of people that wants to see him find his mojo again. However, Tusk makes me question if there was any mojo to begin with. Maybe those earlier films weren’t as good as I thought they were. Maybe I am just falling victim to nostalgia for films I fell in love with when I was still a teenager without a palate as vast as the one I have now. I can’t say for sure but I can say that Tusk is fucking dreadful and it puts a big exclamation point on everything wrong with Smith, not just as a filmmaker, but as an entertainer.

Tusk is one bad joke told over an hour and forty-two excruciating minutes. It is supposed to be a horror comedy. Sure, it is horrifying but mostly for the wrong reasons. It is only funny in one bit of the film – where Justin Long’s character meets a border agent when he first arrives in Canada. Other than that one minute exchange, the comedy is lost in this ridiculous exhibit.

Justin Long has always been pretty horrible. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy in the real world but Tusk doesn’t do anything to help his case.

Michael Parks is sometimes amazing and delightful, he may be the bright spot of this film but he’s still thrown into a mess of a movie and what may be a great performance is ruined by the absurdity of everything else happening. You can be the best actor in the world but if you are fed shitty lines and are in a premise that even you aren’t buying into, your performance is doomed.

Johnny Depp shows up and plays one more in a string of really bizarre characters, which has been Depp’s trend since he shook off that teenage heartthrob persona years ago. While this sometimes works for Depp, his weird character in this film is unfunny, boring and falls flat. He is some sort of Canadian private investigator but comes off as someone doing a bad impersonation of John Malkovich playing a French person.

Haley Joel Osment appears in this and it is truly nice seeing him do something as an adult. Also, Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters play clerks in a convenient store and do a pretty okay job with their limited time.

Génesis Rodriguez plays Justin Long’s girlfriend and she is maybe the best performer of the movie – beating out Parks because she didn’t have to perform in as many ridiculous situations. She is also extremely beautiful and from what I can gauge, a much better actress than the roles she’s been given so far in her career.

If you don’t know about the premise of this film, it is about a crazy old man who invites a podcaster into his home for an interview, only to drug him, keep him captive and physically morph him into a walrus. If you want it visually ruined for you, just Google “tusk” and hit images. There you will see Justin Long in all his walrusy glory.

The pace of this film was disjointed. It was slow for a bit, then it jumped ahead a great deal. It was confusing. For example, Justin Long finds himself losing body parts and the process to full walrus seems slow. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he is a full fledged walrus chained to a floating slab.

By the time you get to the end of this film, you are left wondering what the whole point was. Well, the point is that Kevin Smith had a dumb idea on a podcast, his legions of Smithites told him to make it and like a soulless whore, he did. And while I am sure those loyal Smithites jack off to Tusk daily, until the next Smith schlock comes out, the rest of us are left baffled, confused and disgusted.

This is the worst film Kevin Smith has ever made. In fact, it is the worst film that I have seen in a really long time and I went to the theater for Fantastic Four and Terminator: Genisys. I still want Kevin Smith to return to glory. Maybe he should stay away from the horror genre, as he has had two awful duds with this and Red State. Maybe focusing on Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 is what he should do. But at the same time, the novelty of those films wore off a long time ago.