“The Sixth Sense” and “The Others”

The Sixth Sense’s credits are a beginning, which shows the viewer what they can expect from the rest of the film; a dark, shocking and eerie tale of a boy who is plagued by encounters with the living dead.

The credits begin with peculiar ambience accompanying the plain, white writing as it fades in and out from the screen slowly, showing the names of the cast and crew members.

As “The Sixth Sense” slithers onto the screen, covered in shadows, a sharp pang is played on a string instruments, serving as just enough to scare the most anxious of audiences.

The Others’ credits are slightly subtler. Beginning with the mother, Grace, telling her children the story inspired by the Bible; the story of the creation. She tells her children how God created the world and everything in it in seven days. Although mostly dark, some of the drawing is glowing, giving a somewhat pleasant and calming look. The glow goes together with soothing music to ensure that the opening few pictures are taken in calmly and appear innocent.

The images, however, as well as the music accompanying it appear to take a sinister turn. The music becomes less comforting and progressively more ominous as the images change from the peaceful view of the creation to increasingly harrowing portrayals of the childrens’ fear and begin to become increasingly disturbing, until the last image gradually turns in to the first scene.

The Sixth Sense opens with a peculiar extreme close-up on a faintly glowing lightbulb filament. It is bare and, when you see the room it hangs in, you get the impression that it is a cold and generally unwelcoming place. It is, in fact, the Crowe family’s wine cellar.

The first view we get of Anna Crowe is from behind a wine rack. This gives the impression that the audience is watching her without her knowledge, or that she is being watched by another character in the film. Either way, as a viewer you feel uncomfortable watching the first few minutes of the film.

The camera switches to a long shot of Anna in the large basement. She seems small and vulnerable and, while shivering, hurriedly exits the dank place after hearing glass smash faintly in the distance.

After it’s longer credits, The Others decides to make up for the loss of time by opening with the distressing scream of the main character, Grace.

Starting with a close-up on her face, the camera slowly moves to a level, showing Grace in her bed. We then understand that she is just awaking from a horrific dream, and that nothing awful has happened just yet.

Both films’ second scene is less tense than the first. The Sixth Sense shows a comfortable, warm room with soft music in the background, while The Others has a long shot on three non-threatening figures making their way to the large house across what looks like a field.

Where The Others once more opts for a slower approach, The Sixth Sense launches into another frantic scene, in which Malcolm Crowe is shot.

This scene uses varying camera shots and movements as well as music and bleak colour to aid the story along.

While focusing on the disturbed man who has broken into the Crowe’s house, the camera moves around slightly – it’s almost unnoticeable – to show how unbalanced the man is. He has pale and blotchy skin, which does not make him look attractive and only serves to emphasise the fact that he is unhappy further.

This scene uses point of view shots on all three characters’ parts. Point of view shots involve the audience seeing what the characters see through their own eyes. This means that we feel a “part of the action”, and are drawn into the scene further. This means we emote more, and the film has a greater effect on each viewer.

When the fatal shot is fired at Malcolm, the camera shows the disturbed man, but then slowly slides to the left, just obscuring the view of him shooting himself in the head. Tasteful sound effects let us know that it a bloody affair and, despite not seeing is, we know he is dead.

There is an aerial view of Anna, in slow motion, running to her fallen husband’s side and the camera slowly zooms out and fades to black; the screen remaining so for longer than you would normally expect.

This scene seems to be final. We later realise that the extended blackout represented Malcolm Crowe’s death.

I think this scene is particularly effective due to the acting on the part of the man who shoots Malcolm. He portrays his character so well it is hard not to get “caught up” in the action.

The Others, meanwhile, is taking a slower approach to unveiling its plotline as Grace shows her new servants around the house. Her character is not depicted in a kind manner as, when faced with the realisation that one of her servants is mute, she convinces herself that it is acceptable by reasoning that the last employee she had “spoke too much anyway”. This doesn’t strike as a particularly kind thing to say, and so the viewer is left with a less-than-positive opinion of the character so far.

She seems to try and block out the fact that her husband has not yet returned from war when Mrs. Mills – the new housekeeper – gives her commiserations after realisation that he will not be around due to this, and the fact that she obsessively locks and unlocks doors as she moves around the house creates an image of another unbalanced character, such as the gunman in The Sixth Sense.

The bleak colours in this house too show that it mightn’t be the most harmonious place to live, especially with a compulsive mother as the head of the home.

Once we learn why Grace does this, however, we must feel some shred of pity for a mother and her children locked in constant darkness and fear of light entering their household and wreaking havoc. Her children are photosensitive, and light much stronger than a candle would be detrimental to their health. Doctors have never been able to cure the ailment, and so the mother is forced to hang thick curtains all about the house and lock every door behind her in case her children should happen upon a lit room.

The gloominess around the house, and the music heard as we and the characters explore it underlines the fact that Grace, living in a house in which she is trapped, must be in a living hell.

In the openings of the films the children are also shown as less than happy. The first we hear of them is when they are chanting their prayers as they wake up. An action that should be seen as “sweet” is turned into something “spooky” and unnerving and, as they are breakfasting, there seems to be some covering up being done on behalf of their mother by the small boy, Nicholas.

In both films the viewer would form questions in their minds while watching, encouraging them to keep doing so to see if they are answered. Although The Sixth Sense has a quicker and larger impact in its opening than that of The Others, the latter leaves us with more questions and interest than The Sixth Sense, which has an opening with an air of finality.

Both use location, music and camera angles/movements to the fullest of their abilities, and succeed in creating riveting and extremely effective openings to their stories.

Belonging to the thriller category, both films use suspense to keep the audience captivated and perched on the edge of their seats. There are scenes in each of the two films that illustrate this point suitably.

Once more, The Sixth Sense takes a quicker, less subtle approach. Cole, one of the main characters in the film, is seen to desperately require use of the bathroom, though he seems reluctant to do so. Eventually he hobbles down the hall towards the toilet and relieves himself.

The camera cuts to a shot of a thermometer as the temperature falls, indicating that a ghost is nearby.

The fact that there is no ‘spooky’ music playing in the background makes the fact that an unknown figure passes across the screen to a screech of an instrument all the more effective and, despite having watched the clip on numerous occasions, it never fails to make me jump. The camera techniques help to heighten suspense and terror, such as closing in on the ghost’s wrists so that we see her scars and cuts, which made me jump as it was a contrast to the mid-shot of just seconds before.

Cole follows the figure into the kitchen and, mistaking it for his mother, calls out to it. We are shocked once more as a bruised and bloody ghost of a housewife turns around and brandishes her scars and cuts, accompanied by the crescendo of various string instruments.

This scene, although short, is very effective in fulfilling a thriller’s purpose; shocking the audience.

The segment from The Others is one in which the mother, Grace, hears noises above her head and goes to investigate them.

In the beginning she is speaking with Mrs. Mills, the housekeeper. Grace requests that Mrs. Mills tells another servant, Lydia, that running about and making loud noises is not appropriate while cleaning. Mills leaves the room in search of Lydia and Grace continues embroidering.

Soon after, a thud is heard from above Grace’s head. She tries to ignore it, but another loud noise is heard. She exclaims and gets to her feet, readying herself to find Lydia and reprimand her for the noise she is making. While walking towards the door, Grace spots Mrs. Mills talking to Lydia as requested earlier. We realise that the noises could not possibly have been made by Lydia, and immediately focus our attentions on wanting to find out where the noise is actually coming from.

At this moment, the camera swoops from focusing on Grace’s face to giving a worm’s eye view of the room and the ceiling through which the noise has been coming from. This creates a feeling of nausea and fear. If Lydia isn’t making the noises, then who is? Surely Grace’s children are not capable of making such crashes.

As a viewer, I did not want Grace to put herself in danger by searching for the source of the noise, but at the same time I wanted to see what was lurking upstairs.

When Grace approaches the staircase she sees her daughter, Anne, who is reciting excerpts from the Bible as punishment for ‘lying’ to her mother. Seeming to enjoy the authority she holds over her mother (she knows who is making the noises, her mother doesn’t) she tries to hold the information from her to the irritation of both the audience and Grace.

The section comes to an end as Grace, exploring a bright white room, hears noises and falls into a fearful frenzy, tearing sheets off the objects in her junk room. Maybe through the lack of sun she is exposed to, or for another reason, Grace, disconcertingly, almost blends in to the perfect white sheets that she tears away from the objects.

We later learn that Grace and her children are ghosts, and that the noises they hear are actually the present inhabitants of “their” house. As we look back on this scene we realise how effective it was, as it was the first time that the two parties “made contact”.

Finally she uncovers a mirror, just in time to see the heavy door to the room closing behind her. Didn’t she close it on her way in? Had there really been other people inside the room with her?

She tears out onto the landing and the segment of the film ends with Anne enjoying pointing out the direction that the others fled in.

Although The Others uses light (the bright parts of the house being the scariest), music, camera angles and movements as The Sixth Sense does, I think The Others’ scene is less effective in its approach.

Where The Sixth Sense jolts its viewer suddenly, scaring them unexpectedly, The Others never really delivers the same shock. Yes, it builds tension slowly, but where we expect something ‘exciting’ to happen, the film never delivers.