Arthurian Myth and Cinematic Horror: M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense

  • Hans Jürgen Scheuer
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


An eye-catching arrangement of numbers glowing red against a black background dominates one of the promotional posters of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (US: Hollywood Pictures, 1999).1 The numbers enumerate the five senses: 1 sight—2 sound—3 smell—4 taste—5 touch. The unlabelled number six, alone, takes the form of a fiery wreath enclosing a child’s silhouette. A laconic subscriptio states: “Not Every Gift is a Blessing.” Although, strictly speaking, the image is not part of the movie itself, it nevertheless provides important paratextual information. In emblematic form, the poster gestures toward some of the central questions the film raises as its narrative unfolds: Which unearthly, burdensome, or cursed gift must remain unnamed? How will the sixth sense, for which there is no other word, be displayed, and what can be perceived with it: both by the film’s main protagonists Malcolm Crowe, child psychologist, and Cole Sear, his patient, whose telling names point to an obscure, dark form of (fore)sight? How do we, the viewers, perceive (with) this sense? And how is the sixth sense related to the camera’s eye, and modes of cinematographic communication?


Round Table Dead Person Sixth Sense Dead People Natural Gift 
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Copyright information

© Andrew James Johnston, Margitta Rouse, and Philipp Hinz 2014

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  • Hans Jürgen Scheuer

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