Way back in 1996, no one knew who Peter Jackson was. In fact, he had never directed a film outside of New Zealand before. Jackson was just some scraggly-haired chubby guy who did B-grade horror movies, and, with "The Frighteners," was able to make a B-grade horror movie with a larger budget.
Amazingly, while "The Frighteners" still is purposely cheesy in parts and offers some B-grade moments, this no-name director was able to make something of the film - in fact, it is one of my favorite "horror" movies of all time.
"The Frighteners" really doesn't live up to the name, in the sense that the film isn't all that scary, nor was it ever meant to be. The movie is a horror comedy that just happens to have a smart and rather dark plot, about an executed serial killer who returns from the grave to continue killing. Michael J. Fox is the lead; he plays Frank Bannister, a dried-up architect who can see ghosts and uses his abilities to eradicate ghosts from people's homes. Of course, the only ghosts he ever "eradicates" are his three dead friends, who help cause disturbances so he can pay his mortgage. But when people start dying left and right, he begins to suspect that the problem is not a health concern as much as it is a deadly ghost, and that the next victim may be his new love interest.
The great thing about "The Frighteners" is that it is both funny and exciting, with great humor and some impressive action scenes. While the special effects are a bit dated, the film still holds its own.
Fox is perfect in the lead, and the variety of supporting cast members from John Astin as The Judge to Jake Busey as the psychotic killer are great.
If you're looking for a fun but not mindless horror flick this may be a good choice, especially since "The Frighteners" is out in an all new director's cut which adds 14 minutes back into the picture. Best of all, the DVD comes with a free ticket to King Kong. You basically get your money's worth right there.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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