E. A Solinas | MD USA | 09/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just before doing "Lord of the Rings," director Peter Jackson (who can be seen in a cameo as "Man with Piercings") made an off-kilter horror/comedy movie called "The Frighteners," the tale of the undead and the guy who makes a living off of them. Though "Frighteners" was barely in theaters at all, this cult flick is funny, creepy, well-acted and wonderfully directed.
Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has seen spirits and apparitions ever since the car crash that killed his wife. Now he operates an amateur "ghostbusting" operation that is supposed to exorcise ghosts from people's houses -- the problem is that the ghosts who haunt those houses are in league with him (Chi McBride as the opinioated afro-ed Cyrus, Jim Fyfe as the nerdy Stuart, and most of John Astin as what is left of The Judge).
Frank's business certainly isn't hurt by the fact that for years after a serial killer's murderous spree, people have died mysteriously of heart attacks. Then Frank starts seeing fiery numbers emblazoned on the foreheads of people who will die, including the husband of doctor Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado). As if trying to stop a specter of death weren't hard enough, crazed FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) believes that Frank is the one murdering people. But the evil specter is still killing -- and Lucy is the next victim.
Peter Jackson once said that he has a "moronic" sense of humor, and it shows up in all its glory here -- from bug spray dissolving a ghost's face to a piece of talking oily sludge to a drill sargeant ghost with submachine guns, this is weird and absolutely hilarious. It's the perfect blend of comedy and horror.
But he's also good during the more serious moments, such as Bannister's flashbacks to his wife's death, or the eerie sight of homicidal young lovers dancing with a gun. The opening shot is pure Jackson, with the camera swooping through a window, past fluttering curtains, and though a hole in the attic floor to a screaming woman below.
Jackson also takes the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at more conventional ghost movies: the big Gothic house, crazy old lady, ghost in '70s clothes, and Fox's hilarious turn as a ghostbuster. Nothing horrific is sacred. "There ain't nothing worse than a bunch of pissed-off brothers... that's ALREADY DEAD!" Cyrus yells at one point.
Does it have a flaw? Yes -- the opening scene doesn't seem to make much sense later on in the movie. But Jackson makes up for that with a surprisingly tight, coherent plot, and a satisfying finale that makes more sense than most other horror movies do.
The cast is brilliant, whether it's the twitchy, wild-eyed FBI agent, or the three weird ghosts. Michael J. Fox does an excellent job as Frank, with the right combination of cockiness and pathos, while Alvarado is solid as the idealistic young doctor. But the scenes are reallystolen by Dee Wallace-Stone and freaky-eyed Jake Busey, as homicidal young lovers.
"Frighteners" might not make you believe in ghosts, but it will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even shed a tear or two. Wildly funny, weird, gross, and sometimes really peculiar, this is Jackson's splatter-gore at its best."
Underrated gem from Peter Jackson
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Practically bashed by critics everywhere when released in 1996, the Frighteners can be appreciated today as an underrated gem. After crafting a landmark gorefest with Dead Alive and scoring a hit among critics with Heavenly Creatures, future Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson directed this wildly inventive and surprisingly innovative film starring Michael J. Fox as a psychic investigator who, with the help of three ghost pals, runs a phony ghost busting business. Soon enough, people are getting picked off by Death himself, and it's up to Fox to find out what's really going on. So much is going on in the Frighteners that it's easy for the film to become incoherent, but it's exciting visuals and special effects, along with the performance of Fox and the energetic direction of Jackson, make this film a surprise gem that should be (and very well may be) a cult classic. The rest of the cast includes R. Lee Ermy, Jake Busey, and genre stalwart Jeffrey "Re-Animator" Combs."
One of the Most Entertaining Movies I've Ever Seen
A. J. Thomas | Ohio | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally, this film was supposed to have had a Halloween 1996 release date, but Universal, in its infinite wisdom, elected to shift the release date into the summer - probably because of the awesome special effects. Unfortunately, the summer of '96 was dominated by ID4 and its city-destroying effects, which left the ghosts of Peter Jackson's The Frighteners spinning in the dust. I didn't think much of the film then.
I remained aloof until one night two or three years ago; I was up late, just flipping through the channels, when I just happened to run across this film. I recognized it, and seeing as nothing else was on, decided to give it a chance. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. It had quirky humor blended with horrific dark elements; the blending is done in such a clever way that it never completely loses either element, yet the tension is ratcheted up by shifting from more humor in the beginning to more horror towards the end. The film really walks a fine line, and it does so beautifully.
Being so impressed, I had to have it on DVD, and within a few weeks of that late night viewing, I had the original DVD release. Happy as I was to have the film, I was somewhat dissappointed by the lack of special features and, knowing it was from Peter Jackson - the man behind LOTR and the bevy of supplemental materials those films had on their DVD releases - somewhat surprised. I figured it must have been due to the film's poor box office, and assumed a more comprehensive release was out of the question.
I am pleased to say I was wrong, and this new Director's Cut DVD edition is the answer to any desires I might have had for a better release. A full 14 minutes has been restored to the movie, there's a full-length commentary by Jackson, storyboards, a trailer...but, by far, the best thing about this disc is the 3 hour and 45 minute documentary on the second side. It is the most comprehensive special feature I have ever seen, and considering I managed to watch it all in one sitting, it's also one of the most enjoyable. It's very in-depth and virtually any question one might have had about the making of the film is sure to be answered within. Regardless of the other features, the upgrade to this disc is worth it for the documentary alone.
I whole-heartedly recommend a purchase."
The Entire Laserdisc Box Set on One DVD! WOW!!!!!
C. Sutter | Chicago, IL | 11/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jimmy Lee James states in his November 29th review that there are no special features on this new Director's Cut DVD?? HUH??? Which disc did you watch??? The complete 4-hour "making of" documentary from the 1996 LD box set is on this disc, dual sides with the film (14 minutes longer and the same cut as the laserdisc box set, with Jackson commentary) on side one and the other side fully devoted to the extraordinary making of documentary that Jackson himself directed. How can anyone state they were "jipped" on special features when you have a 4-hour documentary, the longest even to this day appearing on any DVD? This DVD is a Peter Jackson fan's dream come true, especially for those who own or once owned the laserdisc box set and never thought they'd ever get a chance to see this fantastic documentary on DVD! Do yourselves a favor and get this disc - for all of you who've seen The Frighteners, relive the experience. For those who have yet to see it for the first time, you certainly won't regret seeing and owning one of the earlier films from one of contemporary film's greatest imaginations!"