the frighteners | peter jackson | fran walsh | michael j. fox | trini alvarado | peter dobson | comedy | fantasy | new zealand | united states | ghost | ghosts | haunting | haunted | haunted house | john astin | jeffrey combs | dee wallace | jake busey | chi mcbride
Film: The Frighteners
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado and Peter Dobson
This is an interesting film that follows a man that can see ghosts after the death of his wife. His life has been derailed since then and he can’t seem to move on. The official synopsis is after a tragic car accident kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.
Now this film I checked out, because of one of my favorite podcasters was a big fan and spoke highly of it. I do have to say, that after seeing this I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m surprised I never saw it as it came out in a time when I was watching horror and it would have been at the sweet spot age-wise for me. The only thing I could think is my father wasn’t interested, so I never got around to it. This film actually has a really good story, but I’m not surprised in that it is co-wrote and directed by Peter Jackson. It actually has some dark undertones, despite being part comedy. Interesting enough as well, this film feels like a long Tales from the Crypt episode, which I wasn’t surprised when I saw Robert Zemeckis was the executive producer.
Michael J. Fox appears as Frank Bannister, who is the paranormal detective. The thing is that he actually can see spirits, but what the people in the town don’t know is that he is actually causing the paranormal events to happen. He is doing this through Cyrus (Chi McBride) and Stuart (Jim Fyfe). They are two spirits he is having go into houses for his con-game. Also working with them is The Judge (John Astin). This goes much deeper though that he is depressed at the death of his wife and he’s not moving on. What is good for the build-up that while we see him with his con, there are a lot of funerals going on in the background, but Frank doesn’t notice at first outside of possible business.
There are two stories that are running concurrent with this as well. The first is following Dr. Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado). She is newer in town and goes to visit Patricia Ann Bradley (Dee Wallace). This is the other story as she lives with mother who is controlling. This is because when Patricia was younger she was involved in a mass murder at the hospital, but she claims she had no part in it and was a victim herself. Her mother is not nice to Lucy. She wants to help Patricia, but her hands are tied. Lucy is also married to Ray (Peter Dobson), who has a run in with Frank. The two men have an eerily similar connection as well in that they both are somewhat neglect toward their wives.
All the while, there is a Grim Reaper figure that is going around killing people, with a number appearing on their forehead. I thought the look of this creature was good. What it turns out to be was predictable, but I didn’t mind that. What I did mind was the comedy. I thought some of it was fun, but I thought it ruined tension at some points. There also were some things that happen in a police station and a car that I don’t think could happen, which hurt the story just a bit for me.
The film does have some good editing. The film builds tension throughout and I love that the film will introduce plans that soon after fail. It is good writing and with the stakes being constantly raised, it builds up the tension. I also like there are things that are referenced earlier in the film that come full circle later. That is really well done.
Acting in this film was really good across the board. I wasn’t sure what I was getting coming in knowing that Fox was the star, but I thought he was really good. He fit the persona of the conman well, but I think many of his roles were similar to this we are just not seeing him as seedy normally. He shows some depth to the character that worked well also. Alvarado was good as well. Astin, McBride and Fyfe were all funny in their roles. It was fun to see horror vets Jeffrey Combs and Wallace in this film. Both of them were good. I do really need to commend Combs for how out there he plays this character. Jake Busey was also good in the role for the film as well. The rest of the cast round out the film very well for what they needed.
Something that was hit or miss for the film was the effects. Being that the film came out in the mid-90’s, the CGI doesn’t hold up completely. I thought the look of the ghosts were good. I also thought the Grim Reaper looked good for the most part as well; there were some times where the effects didn’t work. The film overall was shot very well though and looked great.
For the soundtrack of the film, it was composed by Danny Elfman. I bring that up, because it was great. It does have a Tales from the Crypt vibe here as well, but it fit for what they were going for. It really helps to heighten the tension and I have no complaints. Not necessarily a score that stands out for me to own, but no issues.
Now with that said, I found this film to be good overall and quite enjoyable. The story of the film has quite a bit of depth to it and is quite dark as well. The comedy is good at times, but at others I think it alleviates too much of the tension. The film is edited well to build the tension and it never gets boring despite its almost 2 hour runtime. I did think that the ending was a little bit too cheery for my liking though. The acting in this film was really good across the board along with some of the effects that are used, but there were times it just doesn’t hold up. The soundtrack of this film is solid. It fit what was needed and helped with the tension as well. This is actually one you could watch with someone who is getting into horror while still being good in my opinion.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10