11 April 2010

The Sixth Sense

Scary things are simple things. Two of the most common ways to be scary are when something's just a little bit off and you can't quite tell how (uncanny valley) or when you know something's going to happen and you have to wait to find out what (anticipation). The Sixth Sense plays heavily in both sandboxes. I was watching this, and I'd said to myself, it's a good movie but it's not actually all that scary. Then I paused it to go get some tea, and as I crossed the completely unlit living room threshold, I could feel dead bodies lurking in there, stumbling, unaware they were dead, and I got chills. Anticipating made me tense, and imagining a living dead body, that uncanny-valleyed me. In other words, the movie was obviously working.

A note about the film itself, this is a pretty great movie -- a puzzle worth enjoying both before and after you've solved it -- but it's got some of the lamest, blandest, expositiontastic dialogue outside of a Star Wars prequel. In this case it's entirely saved by some across-the-board great performances. And can I just say that Bruce Willis is one of my favorite leading-man actors? The guy is diverse, and he picks the strangest projects and really commits to whatever premise he's playing, and can do hard-nosed action, screwball comedy, and subtle drama with no difficulty. A lot of (if not all) leading men try this, and we allow them to because they've got onscreen charisma and a pretty face, but very few can so easily inhabit the variety of types that Bruce Willis. Go Bruce.

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