Analysing thriller films/trailers: ‘The Sixth Sense’…

Posted: October 5, 2010 in Media

‘The Sixth Sense’ a thriller I have not analysed yet but know that it is a thriller that I may want to look at because of its ‘non existent’ character that provides an equally shocking and iconic ending…

And considering that my genre is mainly thriller, and my plot and my non existent character I thought that by analysing the trailer and film I could therefore see how the film deals with having a character who is not real but tricks the audience into thinking the characters are real all along…which would help me in my trailer to deceive the audience…

So first things first, here’s the trailer I’m analysing…


Well I would firstly say that it appears to be promoting a horror film. It’s just the presence of ghosts and constant speak of death kind of comes across as too scary and supernatural for a thriller. At first appearances it seems as thought he film will be more scary than thought-provoking, moving or tension building. And ghosts, most of the time, I’d say is a convention usually found in the horror genre more. But when the trailer begins to go deeper in the film’s narrative, we get the hint this film is more tension building than gory or frightening, and this conveys the thriller genre to us. Making it known that it is more likely to thrill than scare us. There also seems to be a lot of secrecy and mystery, which is a usual convention for a thriller and I think this helps portray the genre well, particularly with the use of extreme close ups to keep identities a secret to the audience.


Well I think this is simply laid out without giving the audience too much…

Well we gather from the beginning that Cole is a boy who has a strange and unique gift which is implied through his secretive behaviour and dialogue talking of dead people. And we learn that because of this people treat him like he is a freak. This is shown through the POV/reaction shots of his fellow students who look shocked and freaked out. And because they treat him so badly, Cole doesn’t want to tell his mother what this gift is in fear of this coming between their relationship ‘Cole. what’s wrong?’ ‘Don’t you tell your mom how things are?’ ‘I don’t tell her things….I don’t want her to know’.

But then the character of Malcolm Crowe comes along, who appears to want to help Cole deal with his gift as he is constantly asking questions and seems to be getting closer to discovering just what is wrong with Cole- ‘I don’t want her to know…’ Malcolm: ‘Know what?’.

And although Cole seems defensive and secretive, somehow (we aren’t told how), Malcolm seems to gain his trust and Cole reveals that he can see dead people, which is mostly conveyed through his iconic speech: ‘I see dead people, walking around like regular people’

And the characters of Malcolm and Cole seem to connect, as Cole seems to explain how it feels when a ghost approaches him and he says: ‘.’Sometimes you feel it inside, like you’re falling down real fast, do you very feel the prickly things on the back of your neck?’ and Malcolm answers ‘Yes.’. This, teamed with the shots of Malcolm and Cole both looking as though they feeling this way and looking very vulnerable portrays the fact that the two characters could become more connected through the reveal of Cole’s gift than we previously thought.

Cole then reveals that the ghosts he sees seem to want him to help them settle things they didn’t get a chance to in life. This is conveyed through the girl ghost under the bed, sliding a box towards Cole and always a man whom Cole appears to be comforting. As well as this Cole literally can be heard saying:‘They want me to do things for them’ and we wonder what these things the ghost want could be…

But Malcolm seems to think this is a good idea- Like he is insinuating that instead of constantly running from them, and living in fear of them, Cole should see what  they want and maybe they’ll leave him alone. This conveyed through Malcolm explaining to Coel that: ‘you need to help them’

But what if they don’t want to help? Well this is left unsaid- what else could they want? Will they hurt Cole? And this question is posed by Cole himself, who seems tense, and unlike Malcolm, very sure that not all ghosts will be so considerate towards him (i.e just let Cole help them and then leave) ‘What if they don’t want help?’

And then it all gets a bit hazy here- there are many references to death or perhaps injuries to characters, which is portrayed through things like Gunshots and possible car accidents. There is also hints that perhaps starts to be plagued by ghosts too- which in insinuated by him asking if ‘Anyone’s there’ into the darkness of the night.

And we are left feeling sure that we know that Malcolm is going to try and help Cole get rid of his gift- as Cole says ‘Please make them leave’ (referring to the ghosts) and Malcolm answers ‘I’m working on it’. It tells the audience that they bond and try to ehlp one another, but the big question left unanswered is this: will he really be able to?

And it’s good to leave that certain question unanswered as we naturally want to know whether Cole can be helped an in what way, and if the trailer told us that well we’d think they’d be no point in watching it….(and if they told us the shocking ending there really really would be no point in watching it!)


Well apart from the fact this trailer appears to be conveying a film which could be shocking and full of twists, I’d say the only true USP they stick in to give to audiences is Bruce Willis’ name. And he, being a big well known star for his roles in the ‘Die Hard’ movies and the iconic ‘Pulp Fiction’ could be enough to persuade any audience member who likes him, or his previous films, to go and see this one. Afterall he is playing the leading role, and I think Bruce Willis is probably a big enough USP to get audiences in to watch the film. And I think from looking at the film, its other stars and director weren’t that well known at the time, so maybe they weren’t big enough USP’s to be put in the trailer? M.Night Shyamalan definitely wasn’t as he’s now been used as a USP in the trailer for the film ‘The Last Airbender’ and I think one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, is because this film is arguably his best and definitely most famous.

Target Audience…

Personally, judging from the trailer, I think the target audience for this film is easy to define. I’d say gender wise the film is targeting middle aged (30s-40s) men and women quite equally (though I’m thinking men a little more, as I’ll explain in a moment).Middle aged men are an obvious target audience because of Malcolm Crowe’s character and his importance int he film (which I don’t think is truly justified in the trailer). The fact he is having marriage problems and is obviously going through various struggles in his life could help male audiences of a similar age to relate to him more as they are likely to have been through the same problems themselves. And then middle aged women can relate to Cole’s mother. Although I’d say a  little less than what men have to relate to, as Crowe’s character is a more important role in the film, women (especially those with children and work problems) can still connect with this character as they can relate to the problems and struggles she goes through within the film in her role as a mother. And I’d like to point out that although the protagonist is a young boy (Cole) children are not a target audience. And this is made clear by the dialogue revealing disturbing problems that he has, which children in the real world could not possibly relate to personally. And it is this speak of death and ghosts that makes the film seem like it needs a more mature approach- probably 15+ because it is hinted at to be frightening and also complex, so ti will need older audiences in order for its messages to be understood.


At first the audience is greeted by police sirens- which connotes perhaps crimes and mystery before the trailer even properly begins. It reinforces the fact that the audience is being shown the scene of an accident, which makes them wonder what is going on as well as heightening their fear of what is going to happen next. The rest of this scene we see is silent. There is no music in the background as we are introduced to Cole and his mother and listen in on their conversation, and this is effective as it allows the audience to truly focus on them and this emphasizes their importance in the film itself. It also emphasizes the importance of what they are saying- that it will tell the audience a lot about the themes of the film and the genre itself. As Cole says the woman is ‘Standing next to my window’ this triggers off low and haunting music, which adds to atmosphere and tension- making the audience wonder about how the mother will react to this and what Cole is talking about. It changes the mood completely for the audience- firstly the pair are having a quite normal (well ish!) conversation about the accident up ahead. And then Cole’s remark about the dead woman standing next to his window absolutely shatters this normal mood. Suddenly it becomes sinister and frightening, and the music emphasizes this to the absolute maximum that it can be. There are then camera ‘flash’ noises as scenes cut from one to another- this emphasizes their transitions and the time which is spaced between them. It also can connote the fact that Cole is a very secretive person, and on the contrary, hates everyone staring at him (especially when it’s because of his gift). As Cole hints at his gift and Malcolm Crowe tries to find out just what it is, music mimicking a  heartbeat begins. This builds the tension in the audience as it gets faster and faster- making them scared and tense of what will happen (ultimately making them want to watch on). It also conveys the film will be a thriller- as a thriller’s main purpose is to, obviously, thrill it’s audiences (which, mostly, results in a quickened heart beat). A kind of thunder-clap or bang can be heard in the background also as this music plays, and this grabs the audience’s attention and is used in certain shots to imply something bad or frightening happens within them and the only way the audience can be sure of this is to watch the film itself. Loud, scary music is also used in a quick burst when Cole is grabbed by the leg by the ghost hiding under the bed. This probably makes the audience jump and emphasizes the character’s fear- making us wonder whether he’ll, in the film, ever react differently to these ghosts or will he always be frightened of them? Low but strange music then plays as Cole realises the ghosts need him to help them settle their unfinished business and be allowed to go into heaven. This makes the audience tense as they wonder how this will work out- will he do it? Or will he be too scared of them to help? And further more, what kind of help will be expected of him by these ghosts? This music then gets more high pitched and loud as Cole poses the question’ What if they don’t want help?’ and coined with the shot of a door being opened and a shadow on the floor we wonder about Cole’s question- what would happen in that situation? Will we see this in the film? In the big climax montage thing at the end of the trailer the music gets a lot more fast paced, making the audience feel that perhaps bad things are going to happen and they begin to wonder what these things could be. And then, a technique I have come to enjoy in trailers is the way the sound dies out, we hear an atmospheric and important piece of dialogue, and then the title of the film appears, coined with the music we left off with.


Well overall I thought that the camerawork was one of the most effective aspects of the trailer- especially to get across the genre of thriller….

As the trailer begins there are various slow zooms out and then in, which I though was very strange to begin with. It gives the audience a view of what has happened at this point in the film (the bigger picture) and then zooms in on the two characters we hear speaking (the important parts). As we are introduced tot he two characters of Cole and his mother the camera is positioned sot hat we are beside her window, but his window is mostly obstructed- so we cannot see whether Cole is lying or in fact telling the truth when he talks about a dead woman standing beside his window…making the audience focus and want to watch on…

There is then a very important and I think tension building reaction shot of his mother, taken from his POV. And this allows us to be put in his shoes, and therefore connect with him. Her reaction is shocked and freaked out, indicating she has never heard him say anything like this before and we wonder how she will react to this verbally. Will she believe him?

A high angle shot then watches Cole as he climbs some stairs, making him seem vulnerable and innocent. Also, the way this shot is positioned means that we cannot see what he is looking at, making the audience wonder just what this is and how it links into the film. It also indicates the film will be of the thriller genre as there is a lot of mystery as to what is going on.

There is also a very clever POV shot as a character is insinuated to be shut inside a cupboard of some kind. Although the audience cannot see who is shut in, how they are reacting to this and who is in fact carrying out this act- which all indicates mystery and makes the audience tense in the wonder of just what is going on. It also connotes Cole’s loneliness as he feels he cannot truly reveal his ‘problem’ to anyone as they will think he is lying and will not understand. It makes the audience sympathize with him as they are put in his shoes. Literally.

More reaction/POV shots are also used when Cole reveals to Malcolm that everyone else (apart from his mother) looks at him differently. And we see a classroom full of students with their eyes locked onto the camera, which the audience can insinuate is in fact Cole, and we really do sympathize with him and how badly others treat him because of his problem- so, will this change? 

Two shots are used with Cole/his mother and Cole/Malcolm Crowe. This indicates to the audience that tese relationships are two of the most important in the film itself- the relationship between Cole and his mother (the fact she is the closest person to him and it is because of this that he hides the truth from her in fear that she might break this close bond with him if she finds out the truth) and the relationship between Cole and Malcolm (the fact that Malcolm treats him no differently and tries to help him with his problem and in return, Cole tries to help him with the troubles he is facing himself with his marriage).

I noticed that extreme close ups are also regularly used, which shows the audience that this film will be a thriller as this is a convention most frequently found within this genre. Most notably when Cole reveals his ‘secret’ or ‘problem’ an extreme close up is used to really convey his emotions or fear to the audience- it makes them focus their attention on what he is saying and recognize the fact that he is not lying- because the fear on his face speaks for itself. There is another extreme close up of a door handle as a character reaches out to turn it, which makes the audience wonder where they are going, who they are, what significance it has tot he plot and all kinds of things. It is the beauty of the extreme close up- the fact it insinuates everything but tells nothing.

More POV shots are used- to convey perhaps various characters watching/looking at things such as graveyards and turning their heads violently to see something they have missed. This conveys mystery again as we do not see who the characters are and the audience will be intrigued to know this very thing…

Zooms out are also used again, but this time to zoom out from a close up of a frightened Malcolm Crowe (laying down on a bed) to a long shot. This links in with Cole talking about the feeling of the presence of ghosts as resembling ‘falling down real fast’ and indicates to the audience that Malcolm may be involved with some kind of sub plot within the film. He may perhaps, in some way, become personally involved with Cole’s problem as he is visually seen to feel what is described, himself. But how?

Interestingly, zooms in are then used on Cole as he is lying down also, but goes from a long shot to a close up. I think this connotes that Cole and Malcolm will grow to become close characters throughout the course of the film and as they learn about each other’s problems, they will try to help one another. It also insinuates that their predicaments and problems are more closely connected than the audience may think…

There are then various mid shots of Malcolm as his and Cole’s conversation can be heard in the background. This conveys the fact he will play a big role within the film and that his character may be affected by Cole’s problem too- but the audience are left wanting to know how and in what way?

More POV shots are then used (in Cole’s shoes again) as a teacher slams his fist in a frustrated manner on a desk. Looking up at the teacher at alow angle shot, the audience feel vulnerable and scared- like the teacher has power over them personally. It allows the audience to once again, connect with Cole and sympathize with the way he is treated by others. But why is the teacher reacting in this way? What has Cole done to make him so angry?

And then two close ups are used as Cole talks about coldness when ghosts grow angry. We see him, with his breath blowing in the air and then another character doing the same also. This indicates that Cole may not be the only character affected by ghosts and their wrath and we want to know how this all links in and who this other character, apparently in the presence of a ghost, is.

Another useful reaction shot of a petrified Cole makes us wonder what has scared him, and unlike other reaction shots, a whip pan brings the audience to see their first ghost of the trailer. A deathly looking young girl, staring at Cole, a box by her hands. We wonder whether this really is a ghost and if she is, what she wants and why she is caring Cole in the first place. A tilt down of the camera successfully focuses the audience’s attention on the box the ghost slides towards Cole, and this emphasizes the boxes importance. It makes the audience wonder what is inside it, what importance it has to the film and why the ghost is giving it to Cole.

A tracking shot then reveals Cole to be walking through a crowded room with this box in his hands. And this makes the audience wonder what he is doing with it and what the box contains- it is indicated to be important, but how is it important?

A little bit of shot reverse shot is used to show Cole and Malcolm having a conversation-The closeness of the two in the shot indicates the close relationship they soon build. And the audience wonder how this relationship began or may change throughout the film and whether that, now Cole has let Malcolm in and has trust in him, Malcolm will be able to help him.

A montage of shots is used to build tension and make the audience wonder just what is going to happen at the end of the film- will Cole tell his mother the truth? Will Malcolm help his problem to go away? Will Malcolm be affected by the ghosts too? etc etc and a few shots I thought were very interesting int his montage was firstly the mid shot of the man firing a gun, which was taken from a character’s POV so we do not know who gets shot and how badly they are injured. And also a  tracking shot of a woman walking across a road positioned so we do not see her face- concealing her identity and making the audience wonder what part she plays in the film and who she is.

And lastly there is an effective two shot (also a mid shot) between Cole and Malcolm. It conveys Cole’s immense fear of the ghosts and Malcolm’s determination to help him all in one go- indicating the main points of the film- that Cole is desperate to get rid of these ghosts he constantly sees and lives in fear of every day of his life, and Malcolm recognizes his problem, and is determined, no matter what, to help him overcome it. But in the end- will he?


The pace changes a lot throughout the trailer in order for certain feelings to emphasized and various other reasons. Firstly the trailer opens up with an extremely slow pace. Like an equilibrium, although it is far from it as we hear a fatal accident has occurred. This makes the audience tense as they see the overview of the accident and hear the conversation between Cole and his mother. The slow pace means it seems more realistic, so therefore Cole’s remark about the dead woman will be more frightening and shocking- as the audience had no indication it was coming. It then gets a little faster- we see shots of things like red balloons, a character being trapped in a  cupboard etc and this makes the audience tense and scared as they wonder how this links to what Cole just said. The pace of the trailer is still rather slow as Cole explains to Malcolm that he doesn’t want his mother to know what’s wrong. Malcolm then asks why this is and the slow pace makes the audience insinuate that they are about to hear what it is. Making them tense and on the edge of their seat, eager to know just what is wrong with Cole and why he won’t tell his mother about it. It also gives them a lot of opportunities to ask questions. It then gets much faster as Cole reveals all to the audience ‘I see dead people’ – This heightens tension, and as well as making the audience frightened, makes them ask questions as tohow this will effect the film- the questions that can only be answered by watching it. As Cole explains further, Malcolm has an input on the conversation too, it  the pace gets much faster still, emphasizing Malcolm will perhaps get deeply involved with Cole’s problem, as he seems to be understanding how he si feeling. But why? And how is he affected? And then the slow pace returns- it makes the audience tense as there is silence and no action appears to be taking place in the shot. This then shocks and catches audiences off guard when Cole is grabbed by the ghost under the bed. Ultimately it makes them focus more on what is happening within the trailer and doesn’t allow them to get bored or unfocused. It also connotes the film will having shocking twists within it- like it will be fine and slow one moment and then BOOM- fast and scary the next. As the ghosts are revealed to be wanting Cole’s help, the pace slows down once again. This is foreboding and tension building- it makes us wonder what the ghosts want and whether Cole will help them or not…
There is then a very fast paced montage, which heightens the fear and confusion int he audience as they wonder how this all links in and what will happen in the rest of the film.Finally, the trailer ends on a slow pace, like a film reinstating the equilibrium, but more eerie and sinister. Because it is not setting the score- its leaving all the questions hanging in the air without answering them for the audience. Thus making them tense and eager to watch the film.


Overall I felt that the dialogue featured in this trailer was enough to convey the mood and genre of the film as well as the plot, without giving too much away at all. Most of the dialogue is in fact ‘mixed’ up, so some characters appear to be talking in a single conversation when in fact in the film, I am sure these pieces of dialogue are taken from two very different conversations…

The trailer begins with one of the most famous conversations from the film, which straight away tells the audience that one of the protagonists has a problem he has to try and overcome. It also makes it very clear that the film is going to be a thriller and focus on the sub-genre/theme of ghosts.

Cole: ‘You know the accident up there?’ – Quite chilling as this is heard as the camera pans over the said accident. We wonder how significant it will be to the film itself. This also builds tension as it sounds as if Cole is about to reveal something and we want to know what this is and how his mother may react to it.

Mother: ‘Yeah…’– In this conversation the mother’s voice/replies kind of act as the audience’s. For example, when she hears what Cole begins to say she wants him to go on by saying ‘Yeah‘ as if to say ‘Yeah and…what about it?’ which is exactly what the audience wants to know. It keeps the audience focused as they know that with the mother wanting more information about what Cole is saying, she is likely to get some answers or references to them at least.

Cole: ‘Someone got hurt.’– We begin to wonder who this character is that got hurt and how it is relevant to the film. The fact we are not actually revealed their name also hints to mystery, which is a big convention of a thriller film.

Mother: ‘They did?’

Cole:‘A lady. She broke her neck.’– again, all the audience hear is the gender of the person hurt, which helps keep identities under wraps and agin connotes mystery (and although I know that in the film we don’t ever hear this characters true identity- she’s just another ghost- audience’s could insinuate otherwise from this dialogue that the character who got hurt is actually important to the film)

Mother:‘Oh my God, what, you can you see her?’– She sounds surprised and wants to know more information, much like the audience themselves, which makes them continue watching because they can connect with  this state of ‘un-knowing’ and confusion she is in.

Cole: ‘Yes.’– I think the calm way he replies insinuates to the audience that something is wrong here. Any normal child character who sees a dead person would be frightened out of their wits, probably traumatized by the sight of it. But Cole’s words are calm and this is somewhat eeire- indicating that perhaps this is not the first dead person he’s ever seen…

Mother:‘Where is she?’

Cole: *After a long dramatic pause*‘Standing next to my window.’– Now it really begins to draw the audience in. How can this dead woman be standing next to Cole’s window? Is he lying or messing about? Well his tone of voice tells the audience that it is likely he is telling the truth. So what is the matter with him? And how will his mother react to hearing this? Will she believe him? Overall we just want to know more of what Cole is speaking of and how this will relate to the film itself.

Mother: ‘Cole, what’s wrong?’- Her concerned and frightened voice (and his silence) heightens tension in the audience as they truly begin to wonder what is troubling the protagonist and whether he will be able to overcome this problem. This also indicates he has not told his mother what is wrong with him- but why has he been hiding it from her? And more importantly- what is he hiding from her? Of course, the audience, like the mother, want to find out, so they watch on…

Malcolm Crowe: ‘Do you ever talk to your mom about how things are?’-The first line in the trailer of the character of Malcolm Crowe. I think this cleverly deceives the audience as Crowe’s character I would argue (having watched the film itself) was the protagonist of the film, as it opens up with him and ends with him. So I think that by sticking Crowe in halfway through the trailer the audience may think he isn’t as important a character in the film when he really is (which maybe is to make sure the film’s shocking ending isn’t indicated at all). Well, what he says shows the audience that he is a helper- he is trying to discover Cole’s problem and to help him overcome it. The fact he asks why Cole hasn’t told his mother about this problem links back to the previous piece of dialogue (mother asking what was wrong) and makes us want to hear Cole’s reply to this.

Cole:‘I don’t tell her things.’- Well this is obvious, but does reinforce the fact that he is extremely secretive even though audiences can insinuate his problem is affecting him very badly. So, why doesn’t he tell her?

Malcolm Crowe:’Why not?’- Well that just asks the question the audience will no doubt be asking- a good idea to leave them tense for the answer and what it may mean….

Cole: ‘Because she doesn’t look at me like everybody else and I don’t want her to. I don’t want her to know.’- OK, so it’s clear here that Cole is an outcast- as he indicates that everyone else treats him differently because of his problem and how it causes him to act. And this suggests his mother is the only person he is really close to as his problem does not take away the fact they have a very strong relationship, and he is afraid that if he tells her what is wrong, she’ll treat him as everyone else does. So more secrecy here, but what the audience will be wanting to know is if Cole will perhaps reveal his secret to this new character, Malcolm Crowe…

Malcolm Crowe:‘Know what?’– Well, that makes the audience connect with Crowe, as he is suggested to have no idea of what Cole’s problem may be. So will Cole confide in him? Or hide it from him like he does his mother?

And then, all is revealed, and the audience finally can connect Cole’s ‘problem’ to the confusing scene at the start (the dead woman at his window). Cole: ‘I see dead people, walking around like regular people..’- Perhaps the most iconic line from the entire film, this instantly catches the audience’s attention and introduces the sub-genre of the film to be ghosts and death. They’ll also realise that this links to what Cole said about the woman at the start of the trailer and understand the levels of secrecy he has towards his mother considering this problem. But is he telling the truth? And why is he confiding in this character, Malcolm Crowe? Should he be trusted? This line opens up many questions the audience wants answers to and makes them almost sure to watch on….

Malcolm Crowe: ‘I don’t see anything, are you sure they’re there?’ – Well this tells us that the character may be in some level of doubt in whether Cole is in fact telling the truth (which at first, in the film, he is). So will he get the bottom of Cole’s problem? Or will he dismiss it as just a kid telling lies? (which from what we’ve seen in the trailer, it’s pretty clear it’s more than that). And the biggest question: Will Crowe be able to help him?

Cole: ‘Sometimes you feel it inside, like you’re falling down real fast, do you very feel the prickly things on the back of your neck?’– I thin this is very tension building, as although it is obvious Cole is speaking to Malcolm about what it feels like to come into contact with a ghost (which he has to do every single day) it is very sinister and frightening. He might aswell be speaking to the audience directly, as each and every one of them has probably once felt this way, and therefore it allows them to connect with the protagonist and understand how he feels, making them want to watch on.

Malcolm Crowe:‘Yes.’– Like the audience, we see he too has felt this way before- so now we wonder- will he believe Cole and perhaps try to help him get rid of this problem?

Cole:‘That’s them……When they get mad, it gets cold…’– Again, very sinister. And again, the character might aswell be speaking directly to the audience. All the talk of anger and cold also connotes to the audience that the film may be scary and/or upsetting to watch (making them judge whether they’d like to watch the film or not) and this therefore might make them eager to know what the ghosts may be mad about/how it will affect the characters etc

Malcolm Crowe:‘How often do you see them?’-Well this raises a question audiences may want to know the answer to (which backs up what I said about his role in the trailer at this point). And this makes the audience tense for Cole’s reply…

Cole:‘All the time.’– Very sinister and very tension building. So this tells the audience that Cole claims he can see dead people walking around, ghosts. He knows that it gets cold when these ghosts are angry, and we hear that he sees them all the time. It sounds rather complicated, so we want to know how Cole copes with day to day life while these ghosts are constantly torturing him and invading his space. Will Crowe be able to help him get rid of them?

Cole:‘They’re everywhere.’– Again very sinister and foreboding. It connotes the fact that Cole cannot get away from this problem he has, and the ghosts are everywhere he goes. So is he telling the truth? Are they really ghosts? Can anyone else see them? We don’t know…

And then, after the initial ‘I can see dead people’ conversation is over and successfully put across tot eh audience we are left wondering how Cole and Malcolm are going to try and overcome this problem…

Cole:‘They want me to do things for them.’– This goes a bit deeper into the plot. It makes it clear to the audience that the ghosts are there for a reason, like they have ‘unfinished business’ to do on Earth before they can go into heaven. So if they want Cole to help them, will he comply? Or will he shun them and try to run away from his unique but haunting gift?

Malcolm Crowe:‘I think that they know that you are one of these very rare people who can see them…so you need to help them.’– Well this makes it clear that Malcolm, in the end, does take Cole’s problem as genuine and not just a childish fib. But he seems content on Cole overcoming his problem by getting braver, and facing up to the ghosts- suggesting he may have to live with this gift other than try to get rid of it. But will Cole agree with Malcolm’s idea?

Cole:‘What if they don’t want help?’– A very good question. This insinuates that some of the ghosts Cole encounters are not always the nicest…and maybe they will be angry and haunt him. This is very sinister and makes the audience tense as they wonder what the ghosts might do to him/have already done to make him feel this way and how Malcolm will react to this.

Malcolm Crowe:’I don’t think that’s the way it works.’

Cole:‘How do you know for sure?’– A good question also. It poses the question of whether Malcolm is entirely capable of helping Cole overcome his problem, as Malcolm seems sure that Ghosts will always want his help. But the audience begins to wonder what has happened to Cole in the past to make him so wary of them and if they do want his help after all (have they lashed out at him or scared him perhaps?) 

And then there is a few, less important pieces of dialogue. Well, important for atmosphere but less important for plot. Firstly there’s Malcolm Crowe asking:’Is anyone there?’ and we cannot see who he is talking to, although we do hear banging on a wooden door which is featured in the next shot. I think this is very good for building tension as it insinuates Crowe will become very involved with Cole and fixated on helping him with the problems he has. But it also raises questions as we wonder who is banging on the door and why they seem to be knocking so violently (I think this is another perfect example of trailers being deceitful as in the film, the knocks on the door and the door itself are a cellar door in which a ghost is trapped inside, which Cole discovers and then forced into and locked inside with the petrified and violent ghost. And in the trailer it just looks as if someone is knocking on Crowe’s front door rather violently…clever!) 

A woman’s voice yells: ‘LOOK OUT!’ which connotes violence and perhaps an accident is about to occur. It also puts tension into the audience as they wonder just what is happening and why the character sounds so scared.

And then, a final piece of conversation between Cole and Malcolm Crowe, which I think is very effective as it pretty much sums up the film as a whole…

Cole:’Please make them leave.’– This insinuates that Cole is still afraid and freaked out by the ghosts although he has lived with them around all his life. It portrays his desperation for Crowe to help him to audience and makes us sympathize with him deeply. But will Crowe be able to help him? In the end, that’s what they want to know above all…

Malcolm Crowe:‘I’m working on it.’– And this tells the audience that Crowe believes Cole about his claim to see dead people (although at first he seemed wary and unable to believe it to be true) and we wonder how he will help him and if he even will be able to. The audience know he is going to try, bu they are left not knowing whether he will succeed…


I don’t think there was one. Which was good, as I don’t really like these personally. Sometimes though, the dialogue featured from the film does overlap over scenes which I think can be argued to a ‘voice over’ and in that case I think this technique worked well- it helped convey information through dialogue and film at the same time. For example, we hear Cole say about the ghosts ‘When they get mad’ and we see a teacher slam his fist into the desk as if to physically portray the anger of some of the ghosts the character comes across (although this is misleading as the teacher isn’t a ghost at all). ‘It gets cold…’ and similarly we see shots of two characters with their breath easy to spot in the cold air, seeming to be almost shivering, which again, physically shows what is implied through certain pieces of dialogue. I think this is helpful as it can be deceitful and imply something to the audience that is wrong as well as really heightening the mood and atmosphere of the trailer as a whole.

Special Effects…

I don’t think this trailer is really one that relies on special effects- for example the only one I can really see is the gunshot and perhaps pieces of clips from car accidents but to be honest I’m not very good at recognizing special effects and therefore admit I could be wrong. But what I do know is that what makes the trailer so tense and scary to watch is the fact we do not need special effects of ghosts nor bloodshed to be scared. The film itself uses actors to play the ghosts and therefore this makes the audience feel more frightened as the ghosts seem more real, as they used to be real, existing people and this could perhaps make us feel more frightened of them as we are not sure (at a first glance) of whether they are dead or not and if they are, how they died. Overall I thought it was a good idea not include lots of special effects in the trailer as this conveys this ‘realistic’ yet frightening element of the film and also tells the audience that is a thriller and not some high-flying action/adventure film with special effects in every scene- it portrays the film itself well.

Credits & Intertitles…

Although I like titles in trailers and I think they can be very effective if used properly, I didn’t think this particular trailer really needed them. The atmosphere was successfully built through the camera shots, editing and dialogue- it didn’t really require titles aswell. And to be honest the titles they did use weren’t that effective- just a basic white on black (to stand out and connote innocence and vulnerability) and bold, rather normal font. And apart from the title of the film itself, there was only one other title- which was ‘Bruce Willis’ – the leading actor in the film and probably its biggest USP (so they obviously wanted to get that fully across to the audience just incase they didn’t recognize the actor at first…)

And now, onto the film itself….

And when we compare the trailer to the film, it is clear that the trailer is effective and clever- as it implies things that do happen, as well as some things that don’t. It also leaves mysteries open and unsolved, waiting to be solved by the audience themselves. Such as the box for one thing, I thought was a useful prop to feature in the trailer. In the trailer we see a girl (and although it isn’t said, she’s clearly a ghost) who is hiding under a bed and slides a box towards Cole. A little later we hear Cole say that the ghosts want him to do things for them and we see Cole, with the same box in his hands, walking through a crowded room. This is enough to insinuate in the trailer that the box contains something important and it is linked to the dead girl- but nothing is told. This is left a mystery and the only way audiences can discover the purpose of the box, or whatever is in it, is to watch the film.

And in the film Cole gives this box to the dead girl’s father, revealing she wanted him to have it. We then see that the box contains a videotape, in which we see the ghost when she was alive and apparently sick with the illness that killed her. But she doesn’t seem too unwell in the recording, and is happily playing about with puppets. And then her mother comes in, and begins putting some kind of cleaning fluid (to my knowledge) in her daughter’s food. This is one of the most shocking and horrible things I think revealed about some of the ghost’s deaths- that the girl died because her mother was intentionally keeping her sick. And I think it was good to indicate that the box was important in the trailer, but good not to give too much away because it wouldn’t leave the audience shocked when they see it in the actual film.

And i don’t think the trailer really gives away the relationship between Cole and Malcolm. In the trailer the two seem quite close, but Malcolm appears to be trying to help ‘get rid of’ Cole’s gift other than by dealing with it properly. (‘Please make them leave’…’I’m working on it’) And I don’t think the trailer really shows how their relationship progresses, which is probably a good thing to leave out as it’d waste time and leave the audience feeling that watching the film would be pointless.

And it may interest audiences to know that Cole and Malcolm’s relationship doesn’t really begin that well- it takes about up until almost halfway through the film until Cole finally opens up to him and reveals his problem, and even then Malcolm is skeptical and thinks Cole is making it all up. So it’s therefore interesting to see that the trailer doesn’t really portray to the audience the true relationship the characters share. So it’s just another thing to confuse and deceive them really, which I’ve found trailers seem to like doing…

And then, there’s the fact that the trailer, rightfully so, doesn’t reveal the ending of the film. Which, like all trailers, is vital so that audiences will go to the cinema wondering how it’ll all pan out/how the story will end and have no real assumption based on the trailer itself.

And to anyone who’s seen ‘The Sixth Sense’ this really is one of those films (which to be honest, are mostly thrillers) that if you know how it’s going to end or you know the big twist, there’s no point in watching it. And I chose to analyse this particular film and trailer because it has a similar shocking ending to my plot: which is the fact that one of my characters is thought to be real, and is then revealed at the very end that he is not (the small boy/innocence of the protagonist) which I thought was similar to the reveal of Malcolm having been dead all the way through the film. And a ghost all along.

And if I were to make my film, I’d make little hints (being sure not to give too much away) that my character wasn’t real, just like ‘The Sixth Sense’ does all the way through (if you analyse it carefully that is) and I may even include some of these in the trailer. Like these shots I got from the film that clearly show that Malcolm is not there at all….

Like here for example. Although Malcolm Crowe is coolly looking directly at Cole’s mother, I noticed that she doesn’t make eye contact with him. They do not speak either, and when Cole arrives home from school and Cole’s mother says: ‘You have an hour’ it is insinuated she is speaking to Malcolm, but of course, she could have been speaking to anyone (though it is most likely that she was speaking to Cole).

And particularly in the funeral scenes I noticed that Malcolm’s character looks constantly out-of-place, or pushed aside. For example, above no one situated very close to him, singling him out from other mourners, and no one is looking at him at all, indicating he isn’t there…

And I like this shot above a lot as this really shows how Malcolm has been a ghost all along and the audience haven’t realised it. It is only when we analyse the shot that we can see that Malcolm is pushed into the background, like he is forgotten and lonely without Cole (the only one who can see him now he is dead). And I also noticed that no one is looking at him. No one. He looks very out-of-place, suggesting exactly the truth- that Malcolm is not really there, but his presence is.

And then there’s the interesting ‘I forgot our anniversary’ scene. And this totally fooled me when I first watched the film, as characters and real people all get angry sometimes and feel like ignoring the very people that have made them feel this way. So when Malcolm sits down, apologizes to her and talks to her quite a lot, and she just ignores him and says ‘Happy anniversary’ it just seems, well normal. But is it? No of course it’s not. He speaks to her constantly yet she seems not to hear it, and it isn’t because she’s ignoring him. It’s because she really can’t hear him. And she doesn’t look at him once, which emphasizes perhaps her anger at him, or when more closely analysed, the fact he isn’t really there! And he also goes to grab the bill to pay, but she grabs it before he can take it away. This at first just indicates her anger at him, not wanting her to pay for what she has eaten alone. But in truth she’s just paying because she was alone all along and well if she didn’t pay for it- who would?

Oh and another one I noticed recently was the meeting Cole’s mother has with a doctor (after Cole has a fit when he is shut in a cupboard with a very tormented ghost) and Malcolm appears to be sitting in on this meeting also. But who can say he’s there really? The only way we can see he’s there is because he sits and listens and comments. But no one answers him, no one even speaks to him, hell no one even looks at him. This all shows that Malcolm isn’t really there. He doesn’t exist. But the way the director did the scene was good because in a tense situation, a psychiatrist may not openly speak in such a serious meeting but leave their words of advice until later on and only intervene if they were asked to. It also seems as though the subject matter isn’t really Malcolm’s business (the doctor’s accuse Cole’s mother of abusing her son) and this can back up audience theory as to why he doesn’t get really involved. But of course the real reason is, he’s dead and he can’t (although he doesn’t know that yet, and neither does the audience).

Then there’s also the fact Malcolm is constantly having to unlock the door to the cellar (which is like his study). And although people keep asking me why this was and they didn’t understand why it keep being locked, I think it was pretty simple- Malcolm’s wife, in the beginning of the film, shivers and runs up the cellar steps as she goes to get a bottle of wine. This clearly shows she finds it creepy enough, and then when a certain ghost keeps going in there, it’s only natural that she’d go lock the door again and again, because it scared her and made her think of the death of her husband. Well that’s my theory anyway, but I suppose you cna only realise that when you know how the film is going to end…

And that’s what I love about the film. You could say this is one of my biggest influences, on plot at least, because I love the way the film seems to make Malcolm out be alive all along and then it is revealed he is in fact a ghost. But the interesting thing is, he isn’t made out to be alive all along! Re-watch the film and you’ll soon see how glaringly obvious it was that this character didn’t exist and was dead. And I think the way the film engages the audience and tricks them into thinking one thing even when clearly showing that it is another, is a convention found commonly in thrillers (such as Tyler Durden’s character in ‘Fight Club’) and it certainly engages the audiences thoughts and attention, leaving them shocked when all is revealed and kicking themselves for not realising it earlier.

  1. Mike says:

    I see this blog was written two years ago… and i arose with a question. Why is it when dr crowe goes into his cellar he writes things about cole, and his wife never discovers that? if she is able to notice that the door has been unlocked by a ghost, certainly she would know that there is information being left behind him?

    • hannahb93 says:

      Good question ! Hmm…not that I actually know the answer, but I guess Anna could have been too scared to go down there all by herself after her husband’s death. If I remember rightly, at the very start of the film, she is down in the cellar getting some wine and then quickly leaves, looking frightened and freaked out by the place and how cold it is. And I think finding it repeatedly opened even after Crowe’s death, would only increase her fear of the place. Perhaps? Hope this helps- though it feels like I’m clutching at straws a bit here ! 🙂

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