This was writer-director M. Night Shy-mala-ma-ding-dong's first big-budget, and still best, movie. We all know the film's secret by now, but it remains endlessly watchable: the haunting score, the beautifully understated performances, the eerie cinematography. This movie still gives everyone creeps. Of course, on the negative side, it introduced the world to one of the most annoying and overused catchphrases of the decade: "I see dead people." Bruce Willis plays Malcolm Crowe, the child psychologist assigned to Haley Joel Osment's Cole Sear, who has a bit of a problem (see the aforementioned catchphrase). In retrospect, it seems obvious what this movie's twist would be, but that's partly what made it so brilliant. The story didn't cheat, and while you were genuinely shocked at the ending, you also kicked yourself, saying, "Why didn't I see that coming?" The movie would give rise to more atmospheric visuals and twist endings, including Fight Club the same year and Shyamalan's follow-up Unbreakable. Unfortunately, M. Night's reputation has been in a dizzying free-fall ever since. Most of his oeuvre, including The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and last year's Razzie-nominated After Earth, have declined in quality almost exponentially. Despite his missteps, this standout from 1999 reminds us - in a somewhat bittersweet way - of what could might have been a very satisfying career.
Michael Perone has written for The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, The Island Ear (now titled Long Island Press), and The Long Island Voice, a short-lived spinoff of The Village Voice. He currently works as an Editor in Manhattan. And he still thinks Michael Keaton was the best Batman.