Charlatan Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has genuine psychic powers, but he doesn’t use them to help people. Rather, he generates cases for his supernatural private-eye firm by harassing a group of hapless ghosts (including a dearly departed Wild West outlaw and an undead judge played by John Astin) into staging hauntings and poltergeists in the homes of likely marks. Bannister’s world turns on its head when he starts noticing real hauntings around town — ghostly assassinations that seem to be tied to the execution 20 years earlier of a brutal serial killer. Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), the wife of one unlucky victim, teams up with Bannister to get to the bottom of the killings and find out what shut-in Patricia Bradley (Dee Wallace Stone) and her witchy mother (Julia McCarthy) have to do with the sinister spree.
It’s been a while since I last saw The Frighteners. Last I saw was back in 1996 or so when it was available for rent on VHS. I was about 12 at the time so the reason I rented this movie were because of the ghost and Michael J. Fox. It’s quite a rare movie nowadays because it didn’t do well in the box office and under-appreciated. But it gained its own cult followers and has high rating on imdb.
The movie is not everyone’s cup of tea, to be honest. Either you’ll like it or hate it. It’s more of a supernatural comedy rather than pure horror, and a bit weird which is Peter Jackson’s trademark. It will remind you of Dead Alive/Brain Dead except that one is much gorier. But it is still a goofy comedy.
I love the characters. Frank Banister can see and talk to ghost after his accident which claimed the life of his wife. He used that ability to his advantage by being some sort of a ghostbuster. He’s more like a fraud since he ordered the ghost to disturb a family or a house in which he will be called to ‘exorcise’ the ghost. The way the ghost tries to push Frank’s name card so the owners would see and call him reminds me of the same tactic Casper used in the movie ‘Casper‘. The ghosts are all goofy with their own funny characteristics. Then there’s Dammers, some patriotic guy who was a victim of the Manson family or something and he is like one very annoying and weird character.
Frank then can see numbers carved on the forehead of some random people and then they mysteriously die. He also could see the grim reaper taking their lives before their time. So he tries to investigate and finds out that the grim reaper is actually Johnny Bartlett, a serial killer who killed 12 victims and was executed (electric chair). But his minor gf that time was released and lives with her crazy mother if I remember correctly. After almost 2 decades, I finally realized why Johnny Bartlett killed 12 of his victims and pursued to kill more even after his death. It’s just because he wanted to top old serial killers. I was too young to know names like Bundy, or Dahmer etc. but now I get his motives. He’s just very crazy.
The special effect was well… okay for 90’s, but the makeup visual effects were really good! I love how creepy the sheriff looked when his lower jaw keeps popping out. Some parts of the CGI aren’t perfect but I don’t really care much. It’s more of a goofy movie so I guess the special effect adds the cartoony-ish feeling to it.
Overall it’s a good, enjoyable movie. It’s not scary but some parts can be a bit creepy. Not suitable for kids. But those familiar with Peter Jackson’s style of ‘horror’ movies prior to directing Lord of the Rings would most probably enjoy this movie. But if you have expectations and very critical about every single aspect, then skip it.
THE FRIGHTENERS (1996)
LDG’s Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Supernatural, Horror, Comedy
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Peter Dobson
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