Like I previously said, have the main theme around and if harmony is missing, keep the theme.
Once again, there are megatons of facts around, thanks to this wonderful World Wide Web era even Marshall McLuhan himself would be amazed of. I leave it like I did in ‘Pet Sematary‘ analysis earlier. I’m just a spectator watching a movie; every argument put is not from great audience, and if I say ‘audience’, that’s me, not the you lot out there. Basically I’m leaving out a helluva lot of ‘IMHO’s. What comes to the movie’s punchline thing, this analysis tries to be faked for sense of reflecting ‘never seen, never spoiled’. Yet it required(allowed) a lot of watching before I even decided to blog it.
THE SIXTH SENSE(Directed and Written by M. Night Shyamalan/ Hollywood Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company; Distributed by Hollywood Pictures, 1999)
The point you join this piece is simply looking the title names and listening the theme. Supposing you are NOT the extreme sarcastic party, the title theme gives more than slight impression of tragedies awaiting, even if the name Bruce Willis is there to raise suspicion. It shouldn’t. It has been a long way from ‘Moonlighting‘ and especially the first ‘Die Hard‘ which, against the odds that my readers may be reduced even more, tops my action movie list. Nevertheless, James Newton Howard created a masterpiece which you may have trouble to install to any other movie or even genre. Dedicated, devoted; the strings and the piano initialize the claw ready to grab your heart into altering gentle and firm squeezes, not letting go. Actually you can imagine a small boat torn away by the storm from the company of similar little boats; others make it but this one had too thin attach line to the pier; you watch it getting into the maelstrom and deep in your sub-conscious you start, very seriously, to wish it would survive: That’s the spirit of Newton’s theme, that’s the spirit M. Night Shyamalan puts us into.
We start with a light bulb in a basement and a woman descending for another bottle of wine. Anna Crowe(Olivia Williams) is shown resolute to the point where a sound is heard in the basement, she gets insecure and shivers. Promising effects, but: What? A spooky effect so soon, naive attempt? No. It tells that Anna Crowe has respect towards everything she cannot explain herself, including sudden creaks and other sounds breaking silence anywhere, without being neurotic; just another human being. The extensive purpose of the scene is boosted with more speedy return upstairs. If there was context to any supernatural phenomenon, I missed it. If it meant that Anna has some paranormal sensitivity above average human being, I missed it. For me the scene was just explaining Anna’s general character.
Upstairs we are presented a jubilation with Anna’s husband, Dr.Malcolm Crowe(Bruce Willis serious. You want Willis serious, unarmed and superb, this is it). Candles, grateful postcards from children and a handsome framed award from the City of Philadelphia ‘for Achievements in the Field of Child Psychology’ and we see the happy couple reflecting from the trophy.
It’s not a party but near silent celebration with married pair almost whispering. Mind you, there are no loud moments of joy around for the duration; something that makes ‘The Sixth Sense’ so rich. The idyll is broken as Anna notices signs of burglary, and both the presence of Vincent Grey, half-naked in bathroom(Note from Boondocks: By Jiminy if it ain’t the ol’ sarge Carwood Lipton!) and I only lately learned the actor is Donnie Wahlberg. He has had an issue; an issue that Dr. Malcolm Crowe had not been able to solve. The audience feels deep disturb about the behavior; Vincent Grey can be compared to “Pet Sematary’s” Victor Pascow carrying a message through the movie, except here given only once and left to haunt in the backgound. Vincent brings the issue back to Dr.Crowe in the form of a gun; he shoots Dr.Crowe in the belly and then himself to the head. We are left up hovering up to the ceiling with the camera as Anna tries to understand and nurture. We better hide all of this into our brain cells for later use.
SILENCE OF THE LAMB
Next fall…Hold..! it is again The Fall? In the prom and scream horror it is summer and vacation and John Belushi wannabes in toga-toga-toga and Spring Break. But this movie did not even have the chance of summer, winter, spring. The idea dies unless it is the all-killing autumn when you feel alive due extensive oxygen and cold sun and everything else around you is dying. Think about it.
A door to the street opens. In the gray autumn, a little boy wanders out, partly insecure; then he runs. Other side of the street, Dr.Crowe watches him and refers to his notes. A professional watching his patient without interfering. There hardly is nothing shocking as Dr.Crowe sees his patient has withdrawn into the church. A tiny hand sets up miniature figures among the pews. The first moments of a cold finger at audience’s heart is the realization of huge lenseless glasses(‘Dad’s’) and monological ‘De Profundis Clamo ad te domine’ as Cole Sear(Haley Joel Osment) presents himself. The traces of scratches in Cole’s wrists don’t go unnoticed from Dr.Crowe.
The setup, carried along with quiet piano and strings, for the first of numerous meeting between Dr.Crowe and little Cole Sear is not preparation for mainstream horror movies of last couple of decades. It is rather a huge question mark with tones of sadness deeper than Great Marianas, still urging you to go on watching. What you may realize by now, the little fella is not going to change into nocturnal furry claw beast or furious green giant. Are the small figures set up only a play or part of Cole’s ‘defense strategy’, complemented by stationing in church and reciting sentences of religious Latin in such a way that everyone else but a professional of child psychology might get more than worried?
We watch as Dr.Crowe returns home, greets Anna but she’s asleep. After having trouble with the basement door under the stairs he gets down to the office for further work and seeks translation for Cole’s Latin expression: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord’. The trouble with the door and Anna’s sleep may reflect something that changed the marriage after the prologue sequence. But they were not exactly from family soap back there either, were they? At this point I also noticed that I did not have a clue about this pair having children; have I missed some subtle yet so essential reference?
Next we are cut into a sequence familiarizing Cole’s family: A dog in the hamper; and mother, Lynn Sear(Toni Collette). The frantic sequence of mother sorting out laundry while trying to dress herself for the upcoming workday leaves out any suspicion that even deep beneath the surface there would be any malevolence, laziness or ignorance from mother’s side. Hands full but loving, and, as later proven, under quite a burden. Toni Collette creates so natural mother being that you definitely have seen her whenever visiting another household. Making the Everyday into art making the Everyday, is kinda form of mastery; once again if you hide it visible into other genres than prose.
In this scene you hit headlong into a wall of a shock effect, in a way that it takes a few seconds to process. There is no warning melody or theme; after arranging kitchen and Cole, Lynn Sear just returns from another run for laundry room and screams shortly, seeing the drawers and cupboards are open again. It all happens just so everyday style that those cold fingers are late getting around spectator’s spine. It’s a quiet moment and the cautious face of mother tells something may be wrong; this is amplified by the cautious question to Cole, ‘Something you were looking for, baby?’. The homevideo style camera adds to effect rocking freely through the kitchen and sweeping the opened storages. The explanation does not quite satisfy mother and little man asks with all natural innocence if she has bad thoughts about him. We learn that every such doubt is confronted by loving mother in point-blank range, face to face; no margin for mistaking. After Lynn sends his son to school with his friend, she notes Cole’s sweaty handprint vanishing from the tabletop.
After getting behind the corner the couple stops pretending. I’m certain I’m not the only one that would have considered strange if Cole’s school friendship was not fake one. Yet the street scene was necessary to emphasize boy’s loneliness, at least in mundane part of world. The separation from faked situation kind of reflects the theme of whole movie, behind the corner Cole has to face the truth again and again, yet bravely soldiering forward. In front of the school, St. Anthony’s Academy, clearly old and filled with it’s past, Cole stops as others rush in. There’s a little boy and there’s his entrance to something badly else than just modern educational institution as we see from bird’s angle.
A LOTTERY WINNER, A SPORTS HERO AND A SHRINK
The start of the next scene is comforting, is it not? Mother sitting face to face with child psychologist. We suppose the talking is over and we are waiting for the little subject of discussion home. As he does. The first part of ensuing scene consists of beloving mother and troubled child lying and exaggerating to each other with all the love one can create and you see a rare, genuine smile on Cole’s face. The second part of the scene starts with Cole’s mother exiting to kitchen and Cole glaring Dr. Crowe with suspicion, or rather, like kid at the dentist.
The scene is typical from lots of examples; the patient merely gestures while the doctor is ‘fishing’. Dr. Crowe challenges Cole to a mind-reading game: If his claim is true, Cole takes a step towards the chair; false is a step backwards towards the doorway. It works up to the claim ‘You’ve secret but you don’t want to tell me’. A subtle piano supports one of the movie’s setup pinpoints and Cole is almost at the chair. The claim upon Cole’s wrist watch fails but at last Cole speaks the explanation, he has something waking up inside but it is not the hope, yet. The ‘good student’ claim fails and explanation is a bit more annoying, ultraviolent drawing has gotten Cole into trouble. Almost next to the door, Cole asks ‘What am I thinking now?’. The answer fails but before Cole leaves, he explains that although Dr.Crowe is nice, he cannot help Cole.
DEAD MARRIAGE AND OVERDEVELOPED IMAGES?
We cut into a spacious restaurant with lot of chattering people and sophisticated atmosphere. We see Anna Crowe sitting at a table and doctor arriving and apologizing to his wife about wrong restaurant and not keeping track of time. The routine recapping of his day remains monologue as Anna seems to be contemplating. She is presumably angry as she grabs the restaurant check before his husband and without listening his appeals wishes ‘Happy Anniversary’ and leaves.
We are back in the autumn street another time. Cole declares to Dr. Crowe that he resents the way doctor looks at him. He hates it; by now it is clear that he gets long glances everywhere else except in the church and at home. He tells Dr. Crowe that his Nemesis, at least in everyday life, is Tommy Tammisimo(Trevor Morgan), his fake school friend, and that his mother doesn’t know and is not bound to know because Cole considers himself as a ‘freak’. Yet once again Dr. Crowe manages to wake up something inside Cole by expression ‘Bullshit!’, something more than just a confusion upon adult language.
At home, Lynn Sear is at the hamper again. She wears a hoodie and tries to adjust the thermostat for more warm to no avail. Another warning but medium subtle, sinking into category of everyday problems. She stops at the drawers and starts to examine the photos in the wall. There’s something like a reflection or bright featherlike speck next to Cole. Actually it is in all photos and Lynn’s headphone music pauses to make room for the subtle theme as she wonders the images.
Here we are at the roots of supernatural photography: No scary figures neither orbs but a slight hint of something that should not be there. The phenomenon appears from baby Cole to latest shots and audience hardly thinks it’s the only and one camera having a fault. The kind of that speck has been used largely as a reference to the presence of supernatural, if not guardian angels.
BEHIND THE SHRINK’S COUCH, RIVALS AND EDUCATIONAL TRUTH
The cut moves again with early audio from last last scene to living room where invisible Cole wonders about his father’s girlfriend as we see Dr. Crowe sitting on the couch. Cole is observed to move behind the sofa with cold weather clothing as rain is overheard, perhaps some thundering. As Dr.Crowe explains about Free Association writing, Cole’s mother is collecting laundry from his room and we see the first time Cole’s drapery-and-pin tent refuge in his room with ‘Do Not Enter’-sign. We pan through his drawings in the wall through card photo of mother and father into the moment when industrious Lynn notices the papers with disturbing writings on Cole’s desk, accompanied all the time by Dr.Crowe’s voice explaining the Free Association writing. Talk pauses with threatening theme and Cole answers to doctor’s inevitable question: ‘Yes. Upset words.’
As doctor is leaving, he asks Cole to think about the goals for their discussions and another pinpoint is heard: ‘I don’t want to be scared anymore.’
Cut into the book of child psychology where Dr. Crowe’s pen circles a notion about the possibility of self-inflicted bruises. There’s a knock on the front door and Anna is heard to open it. In the ensuing moments Malcolm Crowe is listening to subtle pick-up lines a man familiar to his wife is using. Along with the audience he sees the man returning to street, clearly impatient with failure. The silent ‘Keep moving, cheesedick’ is more than angry husband’s expression, it hides the underlining of the state of marriage and frustration.
During the class Cole blows a pencil back and forth along desktop. Note his attitude: He’s not afraid all the time, trembling in the corners but our everyday kid behaving in school just like everyday kid. Unless… Young man presenting the teacher(Bruce Norris) asks about the past of the school building. Our seemingly everyday kid raises his hand and audience feels a bit warm: ‘He’s not that scared.’ But it is not the everyday answer among little students: ‘They used to hang people here.’ BANG! The warm was blasted away by the backbone of the movie. Even if he could be negotiated to draw nicer pictures, it doesn’t mean he would hide the truth, as long as it doesn’t blow his cover. In the light of the truth we realise from his calm answer, teacher’s reply about ‘legal courthouse’ after the very frozen moment sounds very shallow. The puzzled staring in the class continues and Cole gets out of his wits about it and ends up calling the teacher ‘stuttering Stanley’, who finally starts to stutter upon this unexpected burst from a small student and in turn loses his wits up to stutter ‘Shut up you freak!’ Along the confusion the overall reaction to Cole having this knowledge is concrete.
Now there was an example from Cole’s non-existent social life. He simply has no chance, speaking all those truths. He is just a small child; the cream and the standards of the ever-shallow society are not yet poured over him and he has the burden of knowing things he should hide just in the name of self-preservation, in the face of ignorant world.
In the next scene Cole seems to be grounded in some sort of meeting, perhaps after being reprimanded, when Dr.Crowe finds him in a big leather chair. He’s sulking and replies to doctor’s attempts to comfort with a coin trick: ‘I didn’t know you were funny’; Adult sarcasm hits in the face. Why, isn’t he a little soldier? A child whose fate, like wartime soldiers’, is to grow old all too soon facing the same final theme but from another viewpoint? When the camera puts the odd pair at the table against windows blinds open, we can hear more clear mix of children playing in the yard, the air is bright and autumnal trees weave in the wind; a beautiful flash from the better side?
ANTI-DEPRESSANTS, KIDS’ PARTY AND SPIRAL STAIRCASE
Dr.Malcolm Crowe returns home after another less grateful day’s work. For the first time we hear someone addressing him but it comes from a wedding speech, the home video is running and we see a rare expression of joy in Malcolm’s face. A comfortingly light theme mixes in, another momentary relief but there’s always a catch, if not antithesis: Malcolm sees via bathroom cabinet mirror Anna taking shower, and the anti-depressants in the cabinet; smile vanishes and music mixes to minor. Apart from other marital problems, isn’t this stereotypically disturbing; a shrink whose spouse uses mood pills? But Dr.Malcolm Crowe does not seem to be the proud type to let this bother, merely it is adding to the pile of anxiety about their marriage, the puzzlement upon love vanishing along the autumn. The melancholic atmosphere is mixed more when Malcolm still has problems with the basement door.
Cut into rock’n’roll, balloons and the entrance from the street. We are at kid’s party: It’s schoolmate Derrick’s birthday and Cole has been invited by the pressure towards Derrick from his mother, which is revealed by the boy to his pal later. Presently Cole is showing off doctor’s coin trick to another boy, the trick he first resented when sulking in an earlier scene. Grateful Lynn Sear is heard on the background: ‘He does not get invited to the places.’ Cole’s other schoolmate does not get fun out of the trick and Cole stays wondering about a balloon climbing up a stairwell. If he does hear something down to the table, I did not realize. Nevertheless, in front of growing tension among the audience, he starts climbing the stairs. Talking is heard, begging and threatening from a single door at the top. I did not observe if it’s a corridor to larger space, merely seemed a closet. A man’s voice begs his master not to punish him(now that I write this, a veritable theory of confinement lockup sneaks into my mind). A heavy oak door is open and beyond only blackness. A man’s voice first begs, then threats to let him out. We cut ominously in Tommy and his pal Derrick at the root of the stairs, Tommy bragging about his part in a telly commercial. They notice Cole at the stairtop. It’s inevitable; there is no friendship, there is ‘the freak’ and there is the creative yet dangerously bored duo. Little bullies implement ‘Locked in the Dungeon’ play, starring Cole; he is forced and locked behind the heavy door. He bangs door and screams; Coles mother either hears or ‘hears’ the muffled voices down amidst the heavy music and ascends stairs past another listening schoolkid. Other moms collect around the stairtop as mere staring extras as Lynn frantically tries to open the door. The lock suddenly switches, the screaming and banging is over and Lynn picks up his unconscious son from the closet.
The horror of Cole moves into audience as we have only small but nasty clue what is in the closet; and then our little kid is thrown in. Weirdness of the situation glows even more when no other adult raise their fingers to help panicking Lynn; the situation is just beyond reach of shallow society, the concept of the inconceivable. At worst the roots of ignorance may even grow from the rejected concept of single mother and ‘freak’ child. I think different audience sees this different ways, each and all according their viewpoints. But here I think the writer may well have read his sociology, if not behavioral books.
In the hospital or health center, a doctor is explaining to Lynn the diagnosis while Dr.Crowe listens. Perhaps we somehow knew that ‘some cuts and bruises’ were inevitable; and perhaps we somehow guessed that Lynn Sear is put through slight hints of domestic violence just after she was trying to free her son in panic. Here we build something very irritating for the audience; we know Lynn is innocent, the doctor is doing his work as scrupulously as should. Yet it drives us mad. Something is horribly wrong and no one can do anything about it. We can only participate Dr.Crowe’s sigh to doctor’s observation: ‘Oh man…’
Dr.Malcolm Crowe leads us into the key scene, Cole Sear awake in the hospital bed and little chatting is about. Another moment that makes me angry to people spoiling this. We have had clues, but did we get enough those? Dr.Crowe starts to tell a bedtime story about a prince and a driver and sounds if he just is frustrated and not aware of how tale ends. Cole realizes this, asking ‘You havent told bedtime stories before?’, which may be another piece for the Malcolm and Anna Crowe childless puzzle, never quite opening to me. Then Cole suggests about adding turns and twists to the story but suddenly asks ‘Tell me the story about why you’re sad.’ Dr.Crowe first rejects but then starts ‘Once upon a time there was this Malcolm…’ and this bedtime story contains Vincent Grey, the turning night and dying marriage. But above all, it contains new hope, a new chance for new Vincent Grey and a new chance to Dr.Malcolm Crowe’s life(sic). Apparently realizing the depths, Cole still asks how the story ends. And then, breathing deeply, he declares whispering the wish to open his secret, the very lock our child psychologist has been trying to open.
‘I SEE DEAD PEOPLE’
Sooner or later this line became a popular humor in public, every comedian or funny reference using it. However, the ever first reactions to it may have been a bit smiling. Until audience recollects the movie before this point; the horror, the truth has to be squeezed out there for comprehension. Oh yes, there it comes with the subtle core music from the theme; the bony hand with freezing fingers round your spine. And all this for a lonely little child; other freezing fingers are touching the caring part of brain. The key concepts of Cole seeing dead people are that he sees them all the time, everywhere; they do not see each other, they only see what they wanna see. At this point, maybe something said click in heads of audience.
All this works out a manifest, or promise that we are definitely getting more from this point on, wanted or not. The curtain is now wholly open and audience must prepare to, pardon me, collect the bricks.
Nevertheless, next we move into the phase where Dr.Malcolm Crowe imitates the dumb police officers from myriads of lighter horror movies. He has a head case; his innards are covered with pages of psychology books, not ghost tales. As he dictates possible explanations into his recorder in the street, the audience still remembers the movie score that was supporting Cole’s confession, creating an audiovisual explanation that cannot be passed as ‘hallucinations’, ‘paranoia’ or ‘school-age schizophrenia’ as Dr.Crowe very professionally supposes. The tragedy is he is not an ignorant professional: ‘…And I’m not helping him.’ A helpless statement.
THE TRAGEDY OF TERROR
Lynn Sear carries her child home. Cole is sound asleep and mother sees the freshly torn blouse and scratches. She takes immediately call to some of the bullies’ mothers and tells into phone to keep ‘Their Goddamn hands off my son!’
Later, upper corner of a pre-dawn building. Silent rooms and spaces. There is no door opening but Cole is already peeking from his own, scouting in agony if the route to the can is clear. A familiar pattern for some of audience; however, this time there really is something behind the hesitation, not just ordinary fright of dark; if such phrase even exists. It must be one of the bravest if not most peculiar charges in silver screen as Cole stammers forward trying to contain his bladder. He makes it with a great relief. It is to remain short as something has noticed it and thermostat gauge retreats towards cold. Remember, we are now in the reign of Cole’s terror, once he has confessed the symptoms to Dr.Crowe. And us; buckle up. Cole is still enjoying the purge while someone’s waist passes between camera and toilet. The likewise short instrumental burst is effective enough; it is merely a starting of the ghost train engine. The train which does not boast with the amount of oddities along the way but with quality of scarce and terrifying. Look at the steam starting to form from Cole’s breathing as he stares behind him (I would have locked the can door behind me, of course). The slowly mixing background score actually comforts us, as quiet as it is, it tells us something.
Camera advances trough corridor as Cole’s eyes. There is are some noise from everyday kitchen routines with clanking cutlery, and mother in gown, arranging something. A bit odd timing but Cole nevertheless calls ‘Mama?’ The response breaks our picture about Cole’s and Lynn’s home; it’s their kitchen, their home, their sanctuary. But it points out there is no such thing for them, especially for Cole: The woman turning is or was, someone else’s family; dead pale, bruised face from maltreatment and finally the self-inflicted cuts in the wrists. No blood everywhere, just the dried cuts. Accompanied by bitter figure’s yelling not addressed to Cole, he takes a run to his true sanctuary, the patchwork tent in his room. The ghost is seen shortly at the kitchen door as tent closes and Cole has his flashlight and collection of religious statuettes in his physically fragile fortress. A sobbing little boy adds to the horror of audience; mixing it as a high-frequency sine wave of fright and overwhelming pity.
We have, at last, spotted the tip of that iceberg Cole is going through. ‘At last’ may sound the first parts have been futile waste of time but they are not; the building of this has been patient and I wont make a bet how many got the whole idea before latest scene, supposing again you have not been spoiled even slightly. Nothing has been imaged in vain and don’t expect such to happen during the rest.
LITTLE DOOLITTLE, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AT SCHOOL AND HOME
As we leave Cole’s fortress from outside, the dialog from school play mixes in and we are among another audience. Tommy Tammisimo portraying a jungle explorer tells ‘Once there was a boy, very different from the other boys. He lived in the jungle, and he could speak to the animals.’ So, the arrogant bully, the school Nemesis and purchased schoolmate is telling us from the stage the relevant core of Cole’s fate. As soon as he finishes, applauses are heard and cameras, ah, those cameras are raised on to parents’ faces in the audience. A metaphor to life of our ‘weird kid’? Dr.Crowe is in the audience as well, indicating that Cole may be on stage but I missed it(if Cole was the jungle kid, then I missed it totally). Dr.Crowe may be the only one without any camera and it is as such no wonder but still emphasized in a way that the others look like mere lense machines and Cole’s mother is absent with all her work.
Later Dr.Crowe and Cole walk along the school corridor, Cole complaining about the play ‘sucking big time’ and about Tommy Tammisimo having a part in a cough syrup commercial. The discussion is light until Dr.Crowe sees Cole has left behind, standing and just staring. As doctor takes returning steps to Cole, the score appearing onto background tells we are up to something and we’d like to remember what Cole told his class about the building. When Dr.Crowe keeps asking what is the matter, Cole slowly turns his eyes into the stairwell aside. Camera show us there are three hanged people at the top: A woman, a black slave and a boy, apparently from 18th century. Dr.Crowe peeks into the stairs but camera shows us there’s nothing. What follows, is built with care and main theme playing carefully.
The moment Dr.Crowe lowers himself to meet Cole’s face and latter whispering ‘Be real still’ we are in the core of his terror. Terrified Cole manages to whisper to Dr.Crowe how it feels when the ‘it’ starts to happen. Perhaps we are frustrated once again that Dr.Crowe is among his books, not seeing the truth but what use would it be a this stage? No, the mechanism is revealed and Dr.Malcom Crowe is still among those ’80s dumb movie cops. Kinda, not much to laugh at. ‘When they get mad, it get’s cold’ gives another aspect. I thought the cold was due sheer presence of ghost/s but this point proves it worse. So what are we afraid of? A movie where ghosts are angry and protagonists freeze to death? Get a movie about that! No physical violence? We do not need it. Not in this movie; it is based very much to the world we know better, a world in which we listened and read ghost stories and our fears do not need the threat of supernatural violence to exist. The cold, the steaming breath in unlikely places, like inside modern housing, is enough. The vain request of Cole ‘please make them leave’ makes his doctor only dive deeper to his books: ‘I’m working on it.’
In order to keep that little flash of hope up, we see family Sear getting out of grocery, Lynn pushing and Cole sitting in the trolley. Lynn looks at Cole and decides to get up to the speed; and in a scarce moment Cole raises his hands and laughs. There you are, a glimpse of hope in form of mother’s love.
Back at home, kitchen telly is featuring Tommy Tammisimo’s cough syrup commercial, cutting into a scene of an ideal and whole family until we notice the picture quality referring to television. As requested, we see a shoe thrown at the telly shutting it down and Lynn Sear reprimands his son as she tries to adjust the thermostat, having thick clothing for in-house living. Is the audience shivering too? There is not that premonitory background score yet but those cold fingers are about. While dinner get’s started, Lynn asks his son about grandmother’s bumblebee pendant found in Cole’s drawer, a place it should not be in. ‘Sometimes things get moved’ is not enough to Lynn Sear, who declares she’s been praying, and while not being a religious fanatic, raises shortly the curtain of the state of desperation she’s going through. So, after happy trolley scene we are in the other end; time for landing for audience also. Not to forget the cold lurking in the background.
The question of the bumble bee pendant has a great part here; it may even seem that when Cole refuses to confess taking it, his mother has to meet two-front conflict: The possible lying of her son and deeper, the inexplainable feeling at the very home. And in the other end the audience knows the answer. Especially after next quickstart scene after Cole has been evicted from dinner table.
The dog runs whimpering past deported Cole in the corridor. As Cole looks at the dog, a figure of young man dressed in ’70s walks to Cole’s room. Cole hardly notices it but gasps and soon we see the young lad, quite normal looking otherwise, coming to the door and seemingly asking Cole to see ‘Dad’s gun’. As he turns back to Cole’s room, the audience sees the rear of his head has been blown off. At the same time, the dog Sebastian is whimpering in the closet and Lynn Sear is almost sobbing to get him out of there, clearly afraid and nearly panicking about the strange atmosphere. Once again, see? No massive horror effects needed, just something slipping off the everyday tracks without any visible explanations(except for Cole). The whimpering dog has always been a terrific means to frighten the audience; human being may get scared about dropping keys but you cannot beat a scared dog effect. You’ll just know there IS something, period.
Cole asking his mother about getting to sleep in her armpit is a serious gesture. Is he sleeping there all the time like we’d like to think? No. But having mother awake just as you have seen a ghost, is something priceless. And a tribute to this brave little guy, he is not asking for parent’s armpit everytime he witnesses those less mundane visions.
Lynn Sear’s response to Cole’s beg changes the atmosphere from supernatural fright into family tragedy. Just moments after we have been dropping bricks, we are looking at the small family of two suffering. Mother’s sobbed ‘Please tell me!’ is only a testament to the cul-de-sac the little family is facing, despite all love and affection. And following scenes promise no deliverance.
ANNA’S WORLD, GIVING UP AND A LESSON IN SPANISH
Anna Crowe is busily selling an engagement ring to a young couple. It is a long scene and I find no explanation to the length except we have to see Anna’s day and her profession. She talks about shiny pieces’ ability to communicate, which is another point of view into supernatural world. There is a subtle factor to help us bond with Anna; the scene is still needed. Later she hands a birthday gift to her male colleague and in the following scene is almost kissing him but a noise of shattering glass interrupts the moment. Don’t we think something’s badly wrong in the family Crowe? This time we start hearing the discussion of the next scene, between Dr.Crowe and Cole, well before it is shown. It is about Cole asking what Dr. Malcolm Crowe wants and goes well synchronized in the background. The people in jewelry store gather at the broken glass of store door, Dr.Crowe explains to Cole ‘I want to be able to talk to my wife again’ and camera moves behind a street corner to show bitter Dr. Malcolm Crowe marching away. Here we are, the core family is in distress and the only knight to save them is having his own problems enough to cease any progress, as we are about to see.
At last we cut into that discussion. Cole is interested about how Dr.Crowe is going to handle the dilemma. The answer quake’s Coles world back into the void: ‘Can’t be your doctor anymore.’ Cole starts sobbing as Dr.Crowe suggests moving his little patient to two able psychologists, avoiding the eyes of that little patient. It might be just one scene but we know what we have seen and this plain moment without big score or drama is breaking any hope for the little warrior.
We are back the doctor’s basement office. The score starts in the background, like in so many movies during the darkest moment. Dr.Malcolm Crowe thinks about the case of Vincent Grey, gets an idea and plays the recordings of his session. We hear that there became very cold while Dr.Crowe was away from the session for a moment, and that Vincent had been desperate while left alone. We hear the voice of little Vincent Grey and realize that we are getting into another core scene. The recordings contain much of doctor’s soothing dialog but then he starts to rewind and replay it, finally turning the volume knob next to top at the moment Vincent had been left alone. And there it is, a faint voice of third person. Talking Spanish, begging and the Main Score is on; in his own sanctuary, the basement office, Dr.Malcolm Crowe has to believe as the recorder plays desperate phrase among the tape noise; ‘Yo no quiero morir.’ This is one of the scariest branches of surveying the supernatural: Outlandish voices in a recording never supposed to have them. Very popular among the current culture of World Wide Web, but especially before that era any sign of it in television documents made the little me dropping bricks. Very capable effect, a testimony for writer/director’s capability of deeper research or just a sign(sic)of memories from a curious childhood.
EPISODE XI: A NEW HOPE, THE PLAN AND KNIGHT’S ORDEAL
Dr.Crowe rushes into Cole Sear’s other sanctuary, the church. The following scene is set up symbolically: As the doctor walks the aisles, Cole is up on the gallery with his miniatures. Talking with seemingly precocious self-confidence, he is having the upper hand, he did not have to be a salesman or otherwise force the truth into Dr.Crowe; the doctor has witnessed the evidence totally independent of Cole Sear.
Here we must once again recall that Dr.Malcolm Crowe is NOT pompous, arrogant or ignorant psychologist; his education and professionality is just that strong that if skinned, there would be just thousands of pages from scientific books. Ever seen the joke about Superman put into a funny farm? His X-ray vision see only scientific publications in the hearts of medical staff, and Clark Kent ends out as a standard Joe, a bystander, just wishing to get rid of the strange cries for help inside his head. Writer’s insight for a professional here is correct, not exaggerated; Dr.Malcolm Crowe has the additional Something for troubled kids but presently marital problems occupy his mind. He responds immediately into a clear evidence, supposing there was no chance for a trickster during Vincent’s session, the audience just has to believe it.
The plan unfolds as Cole has descended among the aisles and among the ‘heretics’. The start of a thread is reached: ‘Listen to them’, and that thread shall be followed. Of course the problem is that no Ghostbusters are available to capture apparitions onto shrink’s couch so we don’t have to be afraid of getting deep in syrup script, vice versa it’s all worth more bricks. Now there is a battle plan but no ‘enemies’ anymore thanks to the plan. Quite a few lost souls are asking help, more than just scaring the Chosen Ones.
Dr.Crowe walks the nightly street home when he sees his younger rival exiting Crowes’ home. He tries to yell to the guy but this just drives away not seeing the maddened husband behind. Did we not just recently have a scene where it all should start to unfold positively? No, who promised at first hand Dr. Malcolm Crowe’s marital problems would be over? No, we’ll have this trooper with his problems for a while and audience hopes he still can make the difference in upcoming scenes. Very purposeful moment.
Next the camera spirals down to Cole Sear, asleep on the carpet or matress inside his homely sanctuary, accompanied by the dog. The camera or audience’s point of view gets close and he wakes up to a woman’s shouting. Despite the initial reaction of the audience, it proves to be no more than Cole’s mother having nightmares. Cole Sear gets his initial training to lost souls by comforting his unconscious mother. The first training contains only stroking mother’s hair until she’s back safely asleep. Cole’s ‘Mama, you sleep now’ is much more than a random comfort, audience should already imagine a lost dead soul into place of sleeping Lynn Sear, and the ensuing peaceful sleep much, much deeper. Also it represents a moment where Cole is able to return much of the care and love he’s receiving daytime. A warm feeling for the audience, eh? Enjoy it, for now…
FORTRESS COLLAPSE AND THE CHOSEN ONE HATCHES
Cole Sear is at his tent opening when his exhaling turns visible. He starts but nothing is to be seen. Panicking, he escapes inside as camera captures him from the corridor in a slanted view. I think that kind of shot is common horror effect but has lost the ‘something’ in it. Inside, Cole is panting and suddenly the roof of his delicate fortress starts snapping open. Heavy horror score starts rolling over ears. Very good effect at the moment when everybody knows it is not a mundane force behind and just waits to see the horror of offender. The camera pans to the end, suddenly a vomiting pale girl is in the tent and everything changes to momentary madness. But there is a certain balance, they are both whimpering, both afraid; a living little boy and most apparently a dead girl who seems ill, and there is nothing funny in that sentence. Cole crashes out and his fortress collapses upon the girl, leaving the odd figure covered by fabric, a most classic view to a ghost. In terror, Cole crouches behind a chair but he collects himself into a little soldier for he has an agenda for solving the lifetime in terror.
When camera pans along the wall into door where Cole ponders his approach, we see a glimpse of drawing which might be Cole in the center and faces perhaps the apparitions around him but there is no ill will in that drawing. Cole advances and pulls the fabric away. The girl is still there, sobbing but saying ‘I’m feeling much better now.’ Our little soldier forces himself into a dialog and the single most important question in the movie gets alive: ‘Do you want to tell me something?’
We have one of those long black fades and then we are on a bus. Cole is watching the passing autumn city and when there’s a cemetery, he turns his face forward and – gasps aloud. We saw already a shoulder next to Cole but what’s this reaction about? It is the good doctor next to him and they have their ever-simple styled dialog. They are on a mission initiated in previous scene.
Into the wake they arrive, the house is crammed with mourners. We hear hints about the girl’s life from their mouthes and see her picture surrounded by candles. The main theme is delicately on the background as we learn that girl had six different doctors trying to find out her disease. And we learn also that her little sister has not been well lately. Cole and doctor step upstairs past family picture. Just before entering girl’s room, Cole asks doctor not to leave. He’s a good man and they are so close to solution now. The shiny door knob reflects Cole and his approaching hand, a take that has it’s effect. Behind hides the secret and even though you have a dialog with the dead, doesn’t mean that they would refrain from appearing randomly.
In the tightening atmosphere of the girl’s room we see home tapes, puppets and dolls and now we have a view into her better life. The little hand scaring Cole out of his wits and into the floor is kind of funny but the dead girl behind it under the bed is not. She pushes over a box and next, as theme plays softly, Cole wanders along the mourners carrying it. He finds the father of the dead girl, whose name was Kyra Collins(Mischa Barton), sitting face down and and gives him the box. ‘She wanted to tell you something.’ Basically there are so much of the mourners we do not wonder about a small boy handing over a box, especially if we are devastated like Kyra’s father. Box contains a home tape and we get watching it: Girls voice-over accompanies a puppet theatre having animal dolls audience. There’s even a smile in the face of mourning father but then the miniature theatre is removed and little girl sneaks quickly into bed.
I like the way people gather behind the father, cut by cut and in the end they are almost all witnessing the tape in which a woman, mother apparently, brings the supper in the forefront. She takes a strange looking bottle, some poisonous liquid(help me here?) and pours a bit into the supper. The face of the father changes into a state of shock and other audience moves restless. We are in the point where Kyra had her unfinished business to tell Cole. Mother is confronted in a sad sequence; we move into the yard where Cole hands over a puppet to Kyra’s little sister; ‘Is Kyra coming back?’ The answer ‘Not anymore’ is two-pointed. Dr.Crowe has been there through the process and witnesses the hatching of a chosen one and an explanation to a persecuted life. We know that there will be heart-stopping moments to the end but now there’s some sense.
EXCALIBUR, GRANDMA SAYS ‘HI!’ AND FINAL SENSATION
We are in the dressing room of school theatre. Cole is assisted by a woman with his make-up. Cole’s teacher walks in asking for the stable boy and who was Cole talking with: ‘Just practising my lines’ he explains, smiling, as the woman walks away behind the corner and we see the other half of her is badly burned. Another milestone reached, Cole is actually assisted by the dead.
In the hallway teacher tells about the great fire in the school in the past, there’s the explanation for the previous woman. Someone could translate Cole’s response ‘Yeah I know’ precocious but we know better.
As we are moved into the audience of the school play, we expect the part of stable boy is something lesser but actually it reflects the whole situation of Cole. Part by part the puzzle is settling happily: The stable boy pulls the sword from the anvil to become King Arthur, and his bullies are sidetracked to magician Merlin and a village idiot. Cole’s Excalibur is his ability to see the dead and help them cross the last border, stripped off their burden of unfinished businesses. The applauding of theatre audience is more than just for the play, it is for the triumph of Cole getting his life with the dead into right tracks. Another important point is that there is not the mass of cold camera lenses pointing symbolically, just a few. The extended applauds and more than happy Dr.Crowe are now compensating a movie length agony of 9-year boy. Time for end credits? Definitely no.
Afterwards Cole plays with the sword in the hallway when Dr.Crowe praises his part. Cole returns the favors of Dr.Malcolm Crowe by telling him how he can talk again with his wife; just when she’s sleeping and she’ll know. It feels a bit odd but is part of the setup for the whole movie. Nevertheless, Dr.Malcolm Crowe has fulfilled his task to save another Vincent Grey from a hellish life with the unexplained. It’s a moment of farewell but the duo pretends to see each other next day.
We start an odd scene, perhaps a pile-up in the street while camera sails along the queued cars and into Lynn Sear’s car. She states Cole being very quiet and explains her absence from the play audience by having two jobs. Instead of being mad, Cole starts ‘I’m ready to communicate…Tell my secrets.’ The ensuing dialog tells again about the love of a mother; there’s no laughing or pointing, just the ‘You’re scaring me’ and audience has no trouble to settle into Lynn Sear’s position. The movie’s last random apparition, the dead biking lady visits Cole’s side window. But the situation turns fragile when Cole starts about grandma saying ‘hi.’ It is the last straw defining the attitude of the mother, how ever she refuses to consider her son as a ‘freak’. But walls of disbelief stay unexistent upon the facts that flow from the seemingly ignorant child’s mouth. It is one of the most touching moments I have ever seen in any flick and it ends the part of Cole in this movie. We’ll move forward to see Dr.Malcolm Crowe’s triumphant homecoming. Or less.
The wedding video is on again and Anna is asleep in the chair as Malcolm walks in from the dark street. He remembers Cole’s advice and tries a to talk to her. It quite makes no sense, trying to save a marriage by talking to a sleeping spouse but at this point we have learned that everything else has been used and tried. Suddenly she responds: ‘I miss you.’ The odd discussion takes strange tones as Malcolm tries to explain that he didn’t leave Anna. Then, still asleep, she drops a wedding ring; her own is still in place but Malcolm realises his is missing. There’s one sad turn coming(of course we are not that tense anymore). Cole’s talks return to Dr.Malcolm Crowe. About seeing the dead people.
We are at the punchline but the richness of the whole thing guarantees that it still remains rewatchable. Just this one turn, knowing it to come, does not invalidate the selection of watching this masterpiece again. Like I said, most of it unfolds only after you have realized the punchline.
We watch the replay of some scenes to validate the fact Malcolm Crowe is now facing. We witness some factors at Crowes’ home like dinner table for one and that the door to basement office is actually blocked by a table(due poltergeist down there?). At the very moment realisation begins, Anna’s exhaling turns visible and she shivers, still asleep. So, we return to the prologue’s shooting scene and learn that the small hole in front is actually a big hole in the back: ‘Really, I think it just went…went in and out.’ The statement ‘it doesn’t even hurt anymore’ wraps up the movie into a final melancholy.
Malcolm Crowe is now in peace. He just watches sleeping Anna and talks softly, along which the visible exhaling vanishes. Just couple of unfinished businesses, her and Vincent Grey/Cole Sear. We get to see a short glimpse of Malcolm’s and Anna’s wedding dance from the home video. Very tenderly done scene and Goodness Grief far away from exaggerated length of ‘Ghost’ finals.
Boy, was I happy after watching this one? A ghost movie most traditional and at the same time very much deviating from the mainstream. I had no idea what it all was about, not spoiling it to myself, except for some moron revealing the punchline but like I said, the unfolding of it stands a few sessions. And every watch it remains a beautiful masterpiece.