Sunday, 20 January 2013

Films That Influence Me #1: THE SIXTH SENSE

I remember seeing The Sixth Sense in the summer of 1999. It was the drive-in double feature. I was nine years old. First billing was Inspector Gadget for us kids, which we were likely to fall asleep to. I was still awake when it finished and what followed was a film that got under my skin and has stayed there ever since.

I never ended up making it through that first viewing. After a chilling scene in which young Haley Joel-Osment meets an unexpected midnight visitor in his kitchen, it was decided (most likely based on our white knuckles) that this film was not appropriate for young kids -- or rather me, as my siblings were likely asleep. It's true. The film had traumatized me. But there was something about it that stayed with me, and though I had only seen an hour of the film, I could not shake what I had seen. To this day, I'll admit that the hairs still stand up on the back of my neck if I'm walking into a dark kitchen in the middle of the night.

It may have been a year or two later, maybe even less, when I was finally able to convince my parents to allow me to see the film in its entirety. Seeing The Sixth Sense from beginning to end was when I realized that a horror film can be more than just a horror film; that a ghost story can be about more than just the ghosts; that the reason why this film scared me went beyond some of the frightening sequences it featured.

I have since watched The Sixth Sense hundreds of times. I've read the screenplay over and over, and know the story by heart. A lot has been said about M. Night and I'll be the first to say that, along with directing one of the best films I've ever seen (The Sixth Sense) he's also directed one of the worst (The Happening). But whether The Sixth Sense was a one-hit wonder, or a fluke, or not -- it is a gem of a movie that I believe will remain a classic much like The Omen or Rosemary's Baby. And it has greatly influenced my filmmaking.

The haunting atmosphere, colours and even music in my short film The Boy Who Knew are inspired by the overall design and feel of The Sixth Sense and I watched M. Night's masterpiece quite a bit during my directing research for that film.

Even The Boy Who Knew features an ending (although much more subtle) in which the protagonist, alone, comes to a revelation which brings the story together  -- much like the over popularized ending of The Sixth Sense.

For me The Sixth Sense is on my list of influential films because of how well it executes a very real theme through the horror/thriller genre. I love films that have a supernatural edge to them but are based in reality -- and this is The Sixth Sense through and through. The film, in a nutshell, is about a young boy who has the ability to see the dead. What the film is really about is communication -- amongst the living. Who can forget this unbelievably powerful scene. It has been a long time since a "horror/thriller" has featured incredible writing/acting such as this [MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ... although not the big one]:

The film is riddled with symbolism and moves at such a steady pace. It knows where it's headed and as an audience member you feel like the storytellers are in complete control of their masterpiece.

I'll talk about quite a few films that have inspired me in this blog, but from a creative writing and directing stand-point, it's safe for me to say that The Sixth Sense is one of my greatest influences.


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