M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (A-) pairs Bruce Willis and child actor Haley Joel Osment for a tender and suspenseful look at the afterlife. As a psychologist helping a boy who believes he sees and talks to people who have died, Willis is absorbing and effective. Newcomer Osment is very good in his role. Shyamalan turns the screws with great suspense, leading to a stunning showdown with fate.
Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer (C) is an average entry into the horror renaissance ushered in by Scream. Producers realized they could churn out movies on the cheap with attractive young casts, and this is no exception. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillipe, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. play friends who are being stalked by a killer, one year after covering up a car accident in which they were involved. The film never catches fire despite some suspenseful moments. It’s imminently watchable and immediately forgettable but gave birth to a few stars who have done steady work since.
Wes Craven’s Scream 2 (B-) tries to one-up its tongue-in-cheek predecessor by satirizing sequels, often with great success. But the film-within-a-film and the story-within-a-story conceits may sometimes make this a little too meta for its own good. Still it is twisty, thrilling and united the original cast with enough surprises that it stands on its own with more of the brand of fun fans of the franchise will come to expect.
Wes Craven deconstructs scary with Scream (B+), a smart comedy/horror hybrid that features characters who are in the know about the rules of horror movies and still fall into their wicked traps. Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, David Arquette and Neve Campbell are strong in the ensemble, and Kevin Williamson’s witty screenplay is truly the star. Craven is the perfect veteran director to both amplify the body counts and multiply the laughs as the proceedings get more and more horrific.
Director Mike Nichols can’t find the silver bullet for Wolf (F). Its attempt to be a comedy, a drama and an adventure makes the film a complete failure in at least three genres at once. After Man Trouble, this is a rough spell for Jack Nicholson, who phones it in as a modern-day werewolf opposite Michelle Pfeiffer with little chemistry or menace. The screenplay was supposed to provide some sly subtext but doesn’t ever deliver. Rick Baker, who invented the modern-day monster in An American Werewolf in London misses his mark here. The effects in Teen Wolf Too were better.
The eager but naïve FBI agent played by Jodie Foster and the imprisoned cannibal played by Anthony Hopkins are the serial killer tracking duo for the ages in Jonathan Demme’s riveting thriller The Silence of the Lambs (A+). Exploring the deepest reaches of the human psyche with crackling dialogue, impeccable acting and edge-of-your-seat thrills, this is a master class of trying to figure out motivations before a killer or even a fellow hunter makes the next move. Demme intentionally shoots Foster’s character in a way that juxtaposes her as different in world of male-dominated law enforcement officials and female victims, allowing her to hold steady as an amazing protagonist even as vicious villains try to get in her head. Hopkins’ role as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter is one of the great onscreen roles and fascinating in his every sequence.