M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural thriller, The Sixth Sense, establishes Shyamalan as a writer and director known for his contemporary supernatural plots, and introduces the audience to his affinity for a twist ending.
Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead meets an equally troubled child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. Cole’s line “I see dead people” becomes a very popular catchphrase.
The Sixth Sense is produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall and shot in sequence. The color red is intentionally absent from most of the film, while being used prominently in a few isolated shots to depict when the world of the living and the world of the dead would crossover.
An ardent Spielberg fan since his childhood, M. Night Shyamalan integrates themes and stylistic elements from Spielberg’s work in his films (and is touted by the media as “the next Spielberg”), e.g. framing, long take, suspense techniques, ideas of perception and reality, the prescience of children, ordinary people confronted by the supernatural, home invasion etc.
Spielberg “takes note” by casting Haley Joel Osment for the lead role in A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001).
The Sixth Sense receives favorable reviews (highlighting the performances, its atmosphere, and surprise conclusion) and is the second highest grossing film of 1999 (behind Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), grossing about $672 million worldwide.
It is one of only four horror films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the others being The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The film gets five more Academy Award nominations: Best Actor / Actress in a Supporting Role for Haley Joel Osment and Toni Colette as well as Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.
In a cameo, M. Night Shyamalan can be seen as Dr. Hill, who examines Cole.