Well before “the twist” had become M. Night Shyamalan’s cinematic calling card and spoiler alerts were de rigueur for online movie reviews, there was The Sixth Sense. Written and directed by Shyamalan, who had been working on the script since he was 25, the 1999 film was a landmark in on-screen storytelling and the evolution of the horror and supernatural thriller genres. With a cast that included Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Toni Collette, Donnie Wahlberg, and Haley Joel Osment, it earned six Oscar nominations and made Shyamalan a household name overnight, launching a career that would include such movies as Signs, Unbreakable, The Visit, Split, and Old.
In I See Dead People, entertainment journalist Mackenzie Nichols weaves together interviews with Shyamalan, the movie’s stars, crew members, and others into an oral history of how this iconic movie was made. Nichols gives a collective account of the unusual filming process—principal photography took place in the soon-to-be-demolished Philadelphia Convention Center, in which cast and crew experienced inexplicable paranormal phenomena—traces the movie’s surprising success and lasting influence, and even speaks with professional mediums about how it shaped public perception of the paranormal. The result is a fascinating, kaleidoscopic, and at times spooky portrait of how one film unexpectedly changed the course of modern moviemaking.
Mackenzie Nichols is a staff writer for Variety. She has written oral histories of such films as Gladiator, Wedding Crashers, and Jennifer’s Body. She has interviewed Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott, Megan Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, and many more.