The Sixth Sense Cast Thought They Were Making A Very Different Kind Of Film

The first time I saw "The Sixth Sense," I wasn't really supposed to be watching "The Sixth Sense." My parents had rented it to watch one night while I was supposed to be asleep, but I snuck downstairs and hid behind the couch, occasionally peering out from behind to catch a glimpse of the screen. I did not see the whole movie, but I saw enough to convince myself that it was absolutely terrifying (the scene with vomiting Mischa Barton had a particular staying power in my 10-year old mind). Something about the movie's dreary tone, along with its overwhelming fixation on death, made it clear to me that this was horror. When I finally got around to seeing the movie in full — this time sitting on the couch and not actually crouching behind it — that same chilliness that I had picked up on years ago was still there.

Some people think "The Sixth Sense" is gimmicky or horror for people who don't watch a lot of horror movies. And I guess It's true that the film's plot twist can be seen as a bit trite years later. But there's really no denying that M. Night Shyamalan created a film that turned him into an instant blockbuster success. Everyone was talking about "The Sixth Sense" when it was released, and everyone who loved it was thoroughly chilled by the film's final moments. It creeped us all out, and it seemed perfectly clear to each and every person who saw it that the movie was not just a sad, family drama. It was straight-up horror. 

The cast of "The Sixth Sense," however, apparently did not realize this when they were filming. Shocking, I know, but apparently they were just as surprised by the audience's reactions as we were by the fact that Bruce Willis had been dead the whole time. So just how does something like that happen, especially when presumably, it's the cast of the film who should know the story better than anyone? 

Not everyone sees things the same way

In an interview for Variety with some of the cast, it was revealed that some of the actors didn't realize just how terrifying "The Sixth Sense" was going to be. For Mischa Barton who plays Kyra Collins, the daughter who is poisoned to death by her Munchausen syndrome-affected mother, claims she had no idea just how scary the movie was until she saw her sister's reaction to it. "She screamed at the top of her lungs. My mom was like, "Oh, my god." She had to take her outside," Barton says. 

Haley Joel Osment who plays the young medium, Cole, had a similar experience, as well. During a screening of the film, Osment remembers bringing one of his friends along, saying "I remember him getting really scared by it. That was the first time I was like, 'Oh, wow, this is what this movie does to people.'"

Obviously, Barton and Osment were young when they were making "The Sixth Sense," but it's fascinating to think that they were completely unaware of just how creepy their performances and the movie were for anyone sitting down to watch it. In many ways, that is part of why the film is effective. It takes heavy subjects like grief and death and filters them through the lens of horror in order to make a movie that scares just as much as it packs an emotional punch. More recent films like "Hereditary" and "The Babadook" come to mind when thinking about horror movies that do something similar in the ways they choose to depict grief, proving that horror can be more than just shock. It can be used as a powerful tool for exploring deep, emotional ideas, as well. The real magic, though, is that on the page, it may not seem as scary as it does on the screen.