The Sixth Sense Blu-ray Review
In the same way that subtlety is the key word when discussing the film, this is the word we also need to use when discussing the improvements that the HD disc offers over its SD counterpart. Yes, the improvements are there, but they are not huge - and there is one immense draw back to this transfer as well, sadly.
We are presented with a theatrically correct 1080P transfer, and it is certainly one that brings Shyamalan's visual style to the surface in a way that the SD version could not. The source is surprisingly immaculate considering the age and budget of the film. There are no visible defects here.
Shyamalan uses a deliberately crushed colour scheme in this film, so this is never going to be the most colourful palette that your player has ever seen. However, there is more vibrancy here than the SD version and the colours do look warm and well saturated.
Detail, as well, is impressive. This is visible in particular in the internal scenes, which do have a deliberately washed out look, and therefore challenge lower resolution transfers. Here, the level of detail that this transfer brings out is excellent. As the camera follows Cole walking through the environments, the camera brings out a lot of background detail in the building and streets. Similarly, inside, the level of detail is impressive. Whether it is the foreground, or background, detail is immense. A good example of this is the hanging scene. We can now clearly see in the background that one of the hanged corpses is that of a young boy.
Black levels are also impressive. Much of the opening scene, as an example, is shot in near darkness - contrasting with the harsh fluorescents of the bathroom. This contrast is dealt with well by the transfer, making the scene much more immediate for the viewer.
There is a caveat, however, and this is the dreaded DNR. The original transfer never seems particularly grainy to me, but here there is a level of DNR applied to reduce the grain to nothingness. Therefore, instead of a nice warm natural feel to the print, we get very washed out looking faces, with a resulting lack of detail. This is a great shame and does rather spoil the rest of the good work that has been done here.
The result of this is that I will have to mark the picture down. However, although it bothered me in a big way, some viewers may not even notice. I should stress that this is still an excellent release, and far better than the SD DVD. It is just a shame that the DNR has been used.
We are presented here with a PCM 5.1 mix and I was really looking forward to just how this would enhance the viewing pleasure, and atmospherics of the experience.
But, good though this sound mix was, I still felt that it was somewhat lacking in impact. However, it is certainly true to say that the space provided by the lossless track is well utilised to improve the fidelity of the soundtrack.
Sixth Sense, as I am almost tired of saying, is a subtle movie - and this is complemented by the soundtrack. This is not a track that is concerned with beating you over the head with loud cues. The soundtrack as a whole is quiet and refined, with spooky sound effects littered carefully throughout the mix.
This subtlety is beautifully represented within the mix, with every line of dialogue being clear and precise, and easy to hear without any adjustment needed. Every ghostly whisper, and piece of ambient noise is clearly rendered. The score wraps itself around the dialogue, complementing it without ever drowning it out, both aspects given time to truly breathe. I had not realised how inherent to the story the music was before watching but here it becomes almost like an extra character.
The drawback, and this is surely down to the original mix, is the lack of use of surrounds. The opportunity, in a film like this, to really freak the audience out with discretely placed rear effects is obvious, but sadly this is not utilised here. Instead, we get an almost stereo mix with only the very occasional use of the whole sound stage. This was the same with the DTS mix on the SD disc so I would not advocate a remix of the sound in order to achieve more directionality. However, I do need to note this accordingly.
As already mentioned, though, despite this lack of true envelopment, the fidelity and range of the track is well presented, with clever use of LFE in order to underpin the shocks when they occur. This is certainly the best the disc is ever going to sound, and will probably never sound better considering the source.
The previous, deluxe, Vista series presentation on DVD was a beautiful item indeed, a gorgeous box set with a booklet and a myriad of extras. It is good to see that, although the box set and book hasn't made the transition, all the extras from the disc have made it across to the Blu ray, even if they are presented in SD.
Normally, we would start with a commentary, but as Shyamalan refuses to provide them, we have nothing here. There may have been the opportunity for a retrospective look at the film from experts, but there is nothing at all. Instead, then, we will start with the 40 minute long recollections from the set. This is a very interesting documentary that includes interviews and behind the scenes footage. What I like about this, is that is walks the line between information and detail very well, never overwhelming the viewer with technical information - but also not dumbing down too much. It is a very good documentary. This is coupled with the similar length Between Two Worlds documentary which looks at the supernatural in the film, and compares it to other genre films. This is interesting stuff again, and certainly worth a watch - although whether it is something you will want to revisit is debatable.
We then get 15 minutes of deleted scenes including an alternate ending. These are all character moments, and do show Shyamalan's good judgement, as they would probably have ruined the perfect pacing of the film if included. They are still interesting to watch, however, and certainly are illuminating as to just what a good job the director has done in paring the film down.
We then come on to a series of shorter featurettes, each lasting less than ten minutes. Covering "sound design", "reaching the audience", "rules and clues",and trailers these are fairly insubstantial. The only other extra of note is Moving Pictures - a featurette on storyboards.
I am a fan of the film already, but sometimes it takes another viewing to remind me just how good The Sixth Sense is. It truly is a modern classic, and I would argue it is not a film that relies on its celebrated ending to impress - great acting, perfect pacing, and a clever, emotional story is enough to merit repeat viewings. In fact, the more times you watch it, the more the film gives to you, in terms of revealing its clever structure.
In terms of AV quality, the film has never looked and sounded better, but there are still flaws here. I have had to deduct a mark on the video for the DNR, and also one on the sound for the poor directionality of the mix. The former is a fault of the transfer, whereas the latter is the fault of the original film and could not be improved without some serious remixing which I wouldn't like to see. However, both flaws should be mentioned.
The extra features are ported over from the Vista series, it is just a shame that the superb packaging hasn't also transferred.
To sum up, I would recommend The Sixth Sense unreservedly. It deserves a place in anyone's collection.
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