Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (1999, Buena Vista)
Starring Bruce Willis, and Joel Haley Osment

A child psychologist tries to help a young boy who sees ghosts.

View Count: Twice



4 stars

December 22nd, 1999 in the Theatre  

As I suspected, the twist at the end cannot really stand up to a great deal of scrutiny on a second viewing.  But having said that, it was still a great movie. 

It was creepy, spooky, and wonderfully directed.  The mood was set for a great thriller.  Cole started off just being a strange kid, but got stranger and stranger as the movie went on.  Finally, when he admitted that he saw "dead people", things started to get really creepy, as we got to see them, too.

So really, the movie comes in two parts.  First is the mystery of what is wrong with Cole.  Coupled with the question of how Malcolm's life got so screwed up after he was shot, this provides some very entertaining drama.  The cupboards and drawers, as well as the scratches on Cole's arms, are secondary until he reveals his secret.  Then, even though Malcolm doesn't believe him, we certainly do. 

Second, is figuring out how to help the both of them.  Cole is easy, but he fears to do it.  But he overcomes his fears, and helps the little girl, and goes to her funeral.  After that, it's easier for him to start communicating with his mom.  Where I thought on the first viewing that there was no closure for Cole's story, I take it back.  Just opening the lines of communication is the beginning of the healing process, and so it closes quite nicely.  Malcolm is more difficult, but Cole figures out how he could start communicating with his wife, too.  Once he discovers that he should help the ghosts, that solution is easy for him.


Malcolm's fate is saved by the statement, "they only see what they want to see".  In other words, although his wife ignores him all the time, or speaks to him cryptically, he can accept this.  But aside from that, everything seems normal in his life. 

But how did he fabricate surviving the gun shot?  Did he imagine himself coming out of the hospital, instead of the sheet going over his head?  Or is that a blank in his mind? 

It's also unclear whether ghosts actually move things around, or if they just imagine they move things.  Obviously, Cole's grandmother moves the bumblebee pendant.  But does she wait for Cole's mother to leave the house to do it?  If so, it would imply that she realizes that she is dead. 

But Malcolm can obviously feed himself, dress himself, and open all sorts of doors.  Does his wife notice these doors suddenly opening, or is it all in his imagination?  He couldn't open the door to that room (what was in there, anyway?), but he could open other doors. 

Did his wife notice the high volume on the tape recorder in the basement?  He couldn't have heard the recording session, or learned Latin, without actually using the tape recorder or the dictionary.  It seems that she would have noticed something. 

Presumably, he also goes to the store, and would end up interacting with people.  But that one can be explained by having his wife do everything, since he was so wrapped up in his case.

Finally, how did he get Cole's case to begin with?  I guess that one could be considered Divine intervention.  Did he knock on the door to get Cole's mother to let him in near the beginning?  I think he would have introduced himself.  And to whom did he plan to transfer Cole when he decided to give up the case? 

Anyway, despite these nagging questions, I still loved the movie.  Even ignoring the twist ending, even if Malcolm was alive, it would have been a very chilling, interesting, and very strong drama.  I still have to give it top marks.



5 stars

August 24th, 1999 in the Theatre  
    This one was full of suspense, all the way through.  Better than the Blair Witch Project in that respect, but a completely different kind of movie.  The problem was one we all tried to solve with the characters, and we came to like them, too.  None of the characters got on my nerves, though this was the type of movie that could have easily done that.  The effects were subtle, and the fear was real.  The twist at the ending came as such a terrific revelation that I have to see this movie again.  But I wonder if it can stand up to scrutiny, knowing the ending.  But most of it can be waved away by the line "the dead people see only what they want to see".  When he tried to open the door, he didn't see the bookshelf, and so on.  Everybody is clamoring that the kid (Forrest Gump's son) should get an Oscar.  I agree.  He was the star of the whole film.  He acted with incredible maturity!  I actually can't wait to see him in another adult-oriented movie.  

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