SIXTH SENSE, THE (1998) Final Shooting script signed by director M. Night Shyamalan


Newtown Square, PA: Blinding Edge Pictures, 1998. Vintage original film script, 11 x 8 1/2″ (28 x 22 cm.), printed wrappers, brad bound, 118 pp. Fine.

Final shooting script for the 1999 film The Sixth Sense, signed on the title page by director M. Night Shyamalan, an early example. Though The Sixth Sense (1999) was the third feature written and directed by Shyamalan, it was his first horror movie and his first film to make a major cultural impact. Not only was it a record-breaking box office smash, but it earned Shyamalan two Academy Award nominations: one for directing and one for his original screenplay.

As for the movie’s cultural impact, virtually every adult American alive at the time the film was released came to know its signature line, “I see dead people.” Essentially, The Sixth Sense tells the story of two characters, a young boy named Cole Sear (as in “seer”) played by Haley Joel Osment, who is treated like an outcast due to his paranormal abilities, and child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, played by Bruce Willis, who attempts to help the boy adjust. 

At one point, when Malcolm tries to tell Cole a bedtime story, the boy observes that a good story has to have twists. There are two great twists in The Sixth Sense. The first — the boy’s confession that he can see ghosts — doesn’t occur until roughly halfway through the narrative. The second big twist doesn’t occur until the story’s conclusion, when Dr. Crowe realizes that he himself is a ghost (though the boy has known it all along). This is one of those movies, like Hitchcock’s Vertigo or Psycho, that becomes an entirely different — and richer — experience when one views it a second time, knowing the story’s concluding twist in advance.

In addition to its two leading males, the story has two significant female characters with their own subplots. The first is Anna Crowe (Olivia Williams), the psychologist’s wife, who seems to be ignoring him until we realize the reason she is ignoring him is because she can’t see him. The second, Cole’s mother Lynn Sear (Toni Collette), treats the boy as if he was mentally disturbed until she comes to understand, at the story’s end, that his abilities are real. The City of Philadelphia, where Shyamalan grew up, becomes another major character in the film. Because it is one of the oldest cities in the United States, one can easily believe that it is haunted.

None of the dozen movies Shyamalan has made since The Sixth Sense has matched that film’s success. That isn’t because Shyalmalan lacks talent as a visual storyteller or director of actors. However, none of the films he has made since then has had a cast as perfect for their roles as Willis and Osment, and none of the screenplays he has directed since then have had so brilliant an underlying concept.

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