As much as I like to play the role of movie buff in a room full of non-movie buffs, it only takes me about five minutes in a room full of actual movie buffs to remember that I haven’t seen a crapton of the movies that movie buffs enjoy talking about. So while I’d like to pretend that this new series is some sort of attempt to entertain my readers, it’s more just me trying to pressure myself to sit down and actually watch some of those. And I mean watch them properly: no commercials, swear words intact, staying off my phone, with all the lights out.
And so that’s how I watched The Sixth Sense, which marks the inaugural movie in this series. I even put my phone on airplane mode for about half of it, that’s how dedicated I was. The Sixth Sense is so well-regarded that Hollywood is still letting M. Night Shamaylan make movies 18 years later even though pretty much none of his work since has lived up to it and some of it is widely regarded to be epic failures.
Now full disclosure, I’m not really into horror movies. They just don’t usually punch me in the gut and make me feel something the way I want movies to. That being said, The Sixth Sense is certainly a well-written script. I can see why it has the status among film geeks that it has even though it will never be among my personal favorites.
This leads me to two questions: 1) What makes it so good? and 2) If it’s good, what keeps it from being among my favorite movies?
The answer to both questions is simple: plot twists. Now I already knew the major Sixth Sense plot twist before watching and I’m not going to reveal it here because I’m a little annoyed I never got to experience it properly. And if you haven’t seen this and no one else has spoiled this one for you yet, go watch The Sixth Sense right now because I assure you, you don’t want to end up this bitter about it. It’s on Netflix at the time of this writing, so seriously. Go watch it. I’ll even link it here for your convenience.
Now one of the things that makes The Sixth Sense so brilliant is that when you watch the movie knowing the plot twist, it seems painfully obvious. The movie takes on this new level of clarity, even feeling like an entirely different story. It’s how all the best plot twists work and it’s also not easy to pull off. But even when you know what’s about to happen, there’s still something special about the big reveal moment. There’s something to be said for being surprised, but there’s also something cool about watching the whole movie waiting for the characters to figure out what you already know.
So that’s why I’m going to suggest that even after you see it once not knowing the plot twist, watch it again. Because I imagine these are two very different movie-watching experiences. Here’s the link again in case you need it.
But the problem I see is that beyond the incredibly well executed plot twist, I don’t really know what else is here. The movie is probably really good for at least two repeat watchings, but will it still be good the 10th time around? I have my doubts. Because at the end of the day, Cole is just a little boy who sees dead people. When the novelty of him seeing dead people wears off, what else is there? Malcolm is cool too, but he’s so utterly consumed by Cole’s case that once we lose the novelty of that case, there’s not much to Malcolm’s character either. Neither of them are people I want to spend my leisure time. And once we’re already familiar with the plot and its various twists, isn’t that essentially what we’re doing?
One of my favorite movies with a well executed plot twist is Crazy Stupid Love. And part of why I’ve been able to watch this movie over and over again is that it’s still full of characters that are endearing and wonderful. Watching the movie is like 90 minutes with my best friends because these characters feel like best friends even after I know about the plot twist. I can’t see that happening with The Sixth Sense.
So do I think people interested in movies and story structure should totally watch The Sixth Sense? Hells yeah, here’s a link to it on Netflix in case you didn’t know it was there. But is it ever going to be the first name to come to mind when people ask what my favorite movies are? No, because plot twists are wonderful and all, but a favorite plot twist does not automatically equal a favorite movie.