“I see dead people” was the chilling refrain that made “The Sixth Sense” a horror classic.
Now comes “Darby and the Dead,” a dark comedy all about how teenage Darby Harper, after surviving a near-death experience, sees, comforts and counsels dead people.
This rip in the invisibility curtain means Darby (Riele Downs) has plenty of odd relationships with her fellow high school students, both the living and dead. Particularly the school’s Queen Bee (Auli’i Cravalho) who bites the dust in a freak hair-straightening mishap. Once bitter enemies, Cravalho’s Capri needs Darby’s help.
Surprisingly, Downs, 21, hasn’t seen M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 classic. Nor, she revealed during a virtual press conference, did she consult with psychics.
“Funnily enough, I’m actually very afraid of horror movies,” she said. “I simply cannot watch ‘Sixth Sense’ but I used that fear to channel my fear of that type of stuff. I was able to imagine what it would be like.”
Darby definitely changes with her extremely strange gift. “She goes through a style evolution throughout the film. She starts dark, goes totally the opposite direction and then ends up in a place that’s in-between.
“And she starts a few trends along the way, too. That, along with the supernatural elements, was fun and I haven’t seen a ton of movies do that regarding grief and just the fun you could have with that.
“There’s a lot of fresh things, combined to some old movie references that makes this different.”
It also helped that, “I’m somewhat like my character in a few ways. I am a little more on the introverted side. I like to do things by myself sometimes. (Or a lot of the time, I guess.)
“But stylistically, Darby likes to go more to just one color and I like to play and do all types of things. That’s how we’re different.”
Like the teen classic “Mean Girls,” “Darby and the Dead” has a trio of, well, really mean girls.
Nicole Mains, vividly nasty among the three, summed up what she sees as “Darby and the Dead”’s major accomplishment.
“What this film does spectacularly, what is groundbreaking about it, is that it showcases diverse and marginalized communities, particularly women who are thriving and existing at the top of the food chain. Which [in most movies] we never get to do.
“Now we’re seeing them as top dogs and it’s really refreshing to see. To get to be a part of that was exciting. And to get to be top dog for a second? That was a little fun.”
“Darby and the Dead” streams on Hulu Dec. 2