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Frank Bannister makes his living a local psychic investigator in the sleepy town of Fairwater - any spirit invasion and he'll come swooping in to save the day....for a small fee of course. However, what the townspeople don't know is he's in on it with the ghosts. But his life is going to get very complicated when an evil force begins to take over the town and people start dropping dead from what seems to be massive heart attacks and suspicion falls on him. Along the way he befriends the beautiful, recently widowed Dr Lucy Lynskey who is the only person to believe in him. Can Frank find a way to stop the evil presence, clear his name and save Lucy and the town, or will he become the latest victim?
"The Frighteners" (1996) (co-written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh) comes from the minds of two veritable masters of their trades, director Peter Jackson and producer Robert Zemeckis and also has the distinction of being the last leading role in a feature length film that Michael J. Fox (excluding voice overs) made before his battle with Parkinson's disease became public knowledge in 1998. He sure made it a good one. With all this talent flung together, the potential for greatness with this film was high, and I, for one, was most certainly not disappointed with the outcome and "The Frighteners" has become one of my all-time favourite films...I've only seen it about 8 times, that's not too obsessive, right?
The thing that I find so appealing about this film is that it seemingly has everything - a touch of horror mixed with comedy, romance and supernatural fantasy to give a thrilling non-stop rollercoaster ride of exciting entertainment. The opening scene to kick start the film is a somewhat explosive one with a terrified woman being terrorised by a faceless ghost warping the walls, floors and furniture as it chases her around a draughty mansion before her stern, Victorian looking mother blows it away with a shot gun which certainly sets the horror precedent for the rest of the film. The way the unknown ghost, which later adorns a cloak and scythe à la Death begins to haunt the town is suitably creepy and more than a little scary as there seems to be no way to stop it and anyone can become a victim so tension levels are ratcheted up high throughout the film.
However, this horror is cleverly counterbalanced by equally high levels of comedy, from utterly ridiculous characters such as the idiotic husband of Lucy, Ray Lynskey and Special Agent Milton Dammers who is called in to investigate the mysterious deaths of Fairwater, but has become somewhat...disturbed, shall we say, with his undercover dealings with secret sects and cults over the years and as a result behaves in a completely eccentric way. But the greatest source of humour comes from the wacky ghosts that Frank has dealings with from their bad attitudes, their general appearances which, for example, could be stuck with clothes and big hair from the 70s, or others so much older that they're literally falling apart not to mention plenty of slapstick moments of pure comedy gold where the ghosts get themselves in tricky situations and also gives the film a chance to show off its special effects.
Despite "The Frighteners" being made in 1996, so some 15 years ago (as of 2011), the special effects in my opinion really hold up by today's standards with translucent ghouls all covered with ectoplasm, the cloaked spectre of Death rippling through walls, floors and basically anything with a solid surface and flying across rooftops in a very convincing way as well as some wonderful depictions of an evil presence including but not limited to the complete transformation of a house into a disturbing living entity only seen by otherworldly beings. There are plenty of films made today that do not look as good as "The Frighteners" so for me this helps it to become a timeless film. But not only are the special effects brilliant, but so is the soundtrack. With the exception of two tracks - "Don't Fear The Reaper" performed by the Mutton Birds and "Superstar" by Sonic Youth the whole soundtrack was originally composed by the renowned Danny Elfman and actually plays a fundamental role within the film as the wonderfully atmospheric and hauntingly gothic music enhances every scene by adding a real sense of tension and drama.
What really allowed this film to work though was a brilliantly written storyline which, whilst being in essence fairly simplistic, had just enough twists to keep you guessing and so was never in danger of becoming a convoluted mess by trying to be too clever which some films fall prey to. The clues to the events unfolding were dotted around and everything made perfect sense at the end, but there were ample red herrings to lead you up the garden path which I felt kept the mystery of the story alive. There is also the fun and nasty subplot of Johnny Bartlett as the mass murder, with connections to a 15 year old girl Patricia Ann Bradley, who many years ago killed 12 people in Fairwater with a shot gun in a hospital just because he could, before being executed for his crimes which added an extra element of historical intrigue alongside the present day mystery. Ignoring the dramatic opening, the film took about 30 minutes to move all the pieces into place to set the scene before the rest of the film played out towards the endgame in a fast paced and thoroughly exhilarating way.
Another great positive to this film is even though the cast, with the exception of Michael J. Fox, didn't really consist of any real A-listers there wasn't a weak link among them. Fox was great as the emotionally closed off yet vulnerable Frank and his portrayal of a tragically tormented man whilst simultaneously showcasing his comedy skills was utterly convincing and he was the lynch pin that held the film together. Trini Alvarado as Lucy was also excellent in a strong female lead, as even though she did get herself in some scary situations and acted in an accordingly frightened manner, she showed a lot of gumption which made her character incredibly likeable and gave her a genuine role in the movie.
Jeffrey Combs as the rather deranged Milton Dammers was perfect for the part and with his completely over the top portrayal of the nut-job he was a hysterically funny character. Jake Busey as Johnny Bartlett and Dee Wallace as Patrica Bradley were also two of the best cast actors as Busey's freaky eyes and almost albino look as well as the psychotic way he played his character made him a genuinely unnerving and Stone portrayed the present day Patricia Bradley in a believably traumatised way with hints of something hidden beneath. The rest of the supporting cast were also great, all fitting into the slightly tongue-in-cheek mannerisms required for the black comedy side of the film and I'd like to give special mention to the acid tongued newspaper editor Magda Rees-Jones played by Elizabeth Hawthorne whose vicious manner was also scrumptious fun.
So, as a film that is difficult to lump into one genre this film has a lot of diversity and variety, and even though the comedy may take the sting out of the horror elements, there is still plenty of tension to keep the juices flowing. With what I thought was an exciting story, a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack, terrific special effects and flawless acting this film just about has everything for me, and as I said before it is one of my all-time favourite films. Sadly though, the film was a bit of a flop at the box office, with a budget of $30,000,000 only bringing in estimated global gross sales of $29,359,216 which I personally feel was an undeserving fate for this film which was a marvellously creative film and one which I would highly recommend to people who enjoy black comedies, though it could be a little silly for some people if you were looking for a horror film.
There are actually three different versions of the film you can buy (not including blu-ray options) - a 1-disc version, a 3-disc version and a 4-disc version, but the one I bought was just the plain 1-disc version. The only bonus material on this disc are the production notes which give conversational style insight from Zemeckis, Jackson, Fox and a couple of other actors, some biographies on the cast and crew which given the age of the movie you'd be better off searching on the internet for if you were really interested, as well as the theatrical trailer which I think was actually pretty good for giving an idea of the mix of horror and comedy for the film.
So, if you were interested in seeing different versions of the film with the theatrical and director's cut as well as extra bonus material it may be worth investing in the slightly more expensive 3 and 4-disc versions, otherwise just go for the 1-disc option which can be bought for an absolute bargain at as little as £3.74 from Play.
In the small town of Fairwater, strange things are afoot - healthy people are dropping dead like flies. Frank Bannister is thrilled by all this - he is a paranormal investigator and hopes to make a good living out of other people's misery. He works in conjunction with two ghosts, who visit his clients beforehand and pretend to be poltergeists, However, Frank is in over his head for once, because there is a more powerful force in Fairwater, and unless he manages to solve the problem, innocent people are going to continue to die. A further impetus for Frank is a beautiful widowed doctor, who recognises that Frank is the only person with the power to help. Will he take on the challenge? Or will it be too much for him?
Produced by Robert Zemeckis and directed by Peter Jackson, I was quite surprised that I hadn't heard of this 1996 film before, particularly as it stars Michael J Fox. It was really good to see Fox again - he reminds me so much of my teen years, and although he is perhaps not the best actor in the world, he is certainly entertaining. I do think that without him, the film would have been instantly forgettable; as it is, he makes it slightly more memorable, although even he can't save it from being little more than mildly entertaining. As often seems to happen with Fox, the love interest spices up his role quite a bit - there is something endearing about him that will appeal to most females at least.
Unfortunately, the love interest, the beautiful doctor played by Trini Alvarado, doesn't work quite as well. Alvarado is initially incredibly wooden. She is clearly supposed to be the straight partner to Fox's more comic role, but her attempts to pull it off don't really work - she provides a pretty face, but very little more. I've not heard of the actress before, probably for a very good reason - she just isn't anything special. There are a number of other characters involved in the film, but apart from the doctor's dead husband, played by Peter Dobson, and the mass murderer, played by Jake Busey, no-one is on-screen for long enough to make an impact. Dobson gives an extremely slapstick performance which just about works, but is a bit over the top; Jake Busey looks exactly as a mass murderer ought to, but the role really is based on looks rather than his acting skills.
The special effects are fairly basic, but in its day probably would have been quite impressive. Most of the scary 'monsters' are seen bulging through wallpaper, others are 'ghosts' that glow in the dark and sometimes have bones showing. Occasionally we see Bannister's ghostly partners walk through walls and other inanimate objects. They do the job, but aren't going to make much of an impact on today's viewers. However, that really doesn't matter all that much because the film doesn't even try to take itself seriously; it is simply a bit of fun from start to finish with the odd scare thrown in every now and again.
There is a rating of 15 on the film, which is perhaps a little harsh compared to recent films like The Dark Knight. However, some form of parental control is probably needed for children under 15, particularly if they are easily scared. The story does revolve around a mass murderer and we do see dead bodies lying on the floor, plus there are a number of creepy moments when the atmosphere and the music really build up and could give younger children a few nightmares. On the whole though, the film is fairly light-hearted and would make an ideal Halloween watch with a few beers or a bottle of wine. The humour isn't laugh out loud, it is much more subtle than that, but it is enough to make the film entertaining.
There isn't really all that much to criticise - obviously, if you don't like comedy horrors, then you aren't particularly going to like this, but on the whole, it is fairly harmless, slightly scary fun. Then again, it isn't going to be a film that particularly stands out either. Written by Peter Jackson, the story is fairly average really, and despite Michael J Fox's best efforts, the acting just isn't good enough to raise the overall quality of the film.
There are a couple of extras with the DVD that I have, but nothing worth watching - production notes, cast and film-makers notes and a theatrical trailer. However, if you want extras, there is a three disc version available with extras aplenty.
Overall, this is a film that is worth watching if it comes on television, or as a light-hearted film to watch at Halloween, but I really don't think that it is worth going out of anyone's way to purchase unless you are a big Michael J Fox fan. I have only just watched it, but I can't see the film sticking in my mind for very long. Just about recommended to watch, but probably not for purchasing.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 105 minutes
The Frighteners is about Frank Bannister, played by Michael J Fox, who gained psychic powers from a car accident that killed his wife. Much in the same vein as Alan Moore's psychic Constantine, Bannister is a complete cynic. He uses his abilities and his ghost friends as part of a money-making scam. The ghosts haunt a place and then Bannister comes in to clear the place. Matters go along swimmingly until he stumbles upon a serial killing ghost who was responsible for killing Bannister's wife. To make matters worse, suspicion for the serial killings falls on Bannister.
I first saw The Frighteners as part of a Peter Jackson boxset and being placed alongside the "Lord of the Rings" director's earlier B-movies Bad Taste and Brain Dead it seemed very out of place. The Frighteners is ill-deserving of its 15 certificate. It could have easily have qualified as a 12 at the time. It only really goes over the line with a non-explicit reference to spectral necrophilia (I kid you not!) Outside of that it's a fun film in the Hollywood mould that would be appropriate for family viewing. The violence and the gore are not even close to the splatterphunk of Jackson's earlier films. It doesn't really have any standout gross scenes.
This was a clear demonstration of Jackson's ability to cope with much larger budgets and Hollywood in general. Despite some of his obvious touches this is not a typical "Wingnut" production film. As a foreshadow to the fantastic work he did on the Lord of Rings trilogy, Jackson not only wrote the film with his wife but also had the whole piece shot in New Zealand and his Weta special effects crew did all the visual effects. Nevertheless, it comes across as being a Hollywood style film. Producer Robert Zemeckis, known for his directorial work on "Back to the Future", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Forrest Gump", shared complete artistic control with Jackson and his influence is very evident.
Title: The Frighteners
Actors: Michael J Fox, Julianna McCarthy
Release: 1996 (DVD: 2003)
Frank Bannister played by Michael J Fox is a man who's past haunts him, literally. After a traumatic car accident his perception was altered so much so that he could see and communicate with spirits. Teaming up with an old sherrif style spook known as Judge, a guy from the 70's known as Cyrus and a nerd called Stuart. The idea is that the spooks go into peoples houses and haunt them leaving a business card behind which brings the owners to call Frank Bannister to help calm the spooks and rid the house of them. A nice little scam until a series of deaths in the area and mysterious numbers on victims heads that only Frank can see leads him into something much more sinister as Death himself is believed to be roaming the streets. Frank, being the only person able to see this reaper like menace, sees it as his duty to follow it and stop its reign of evil.
This movie has lots of twists and turns and really hints, in my opinion, further towards the horror than it does the comedy (just look at the front cover if you don't believe me) though this is by no means a bad thing. There is very little in the way of gore but the clever storyline and occasional witty comment will keep you entertained throughout.
A great performance from Michael J Fox and a slightly over the top performance by Jeffrey Combs as Milton Dammers, the psychotic special agent who's seen a few too many cults and sects.
The film didn't go so well at the box office and this may be due to the unusual way the film doesn't really sit in the horror or comedy genre firmly, though personally I really like this about it as it helps to break up the tension.
A great film that is under appreciated, with some good CGI in parts (especially for 1996) and a good different storyline that has just enough of a romantic undertone to make you go 'awww' but not too much to make your girlfriend insist you drop to one knee.
Cast And Film Makers Notes
Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) is a man with a troubled past.
After the traumatic experience of a car crash that left his wife dead, his perception was knocked sideways, allowing him to see all of the ghosts of lost souls caught on Earth who missed their chance to go to Heaven.
But to build his dream home he needs money, and the best way to do that is to offer up his paranormal gift for a price.
In cahoots with a trio of mixed-bag ghouls, including rickety old cowboy the Judge (John Astin), 70s throwback Cyrus (Chi McBride), and young 50s geek Stuart (Jim Fyfe), Bannister sets them the task of haunting a particular house and leaving his business card on the table for the spooked family to conveniently find.
In true Venkman style, he turns up with his gear, spouts some long-winded paranormal nonsence, sprays on some Holy water and pockets the cash.
This is all well and good until the local press pick up on his frequent trips to graveyards and funerals to promote his trade and brand him a hoax.
Meanwhile, a series of unexplained deaths are troubling the town, where apparently healthy individuals are dropping dead from heart failure, and word is spreading through the ghosts and ghouls that the Grim Reaper itself is on the loose.
After a number of unfortunate chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Bannister is suspected of being the killer by the convinced FBI worm Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) and the sceptical Sheriff Walt (Troy Evans).
With the help of Dr. Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado), Bannister must try to solve the mystery of the Grim Reaper's killings as well as keep out of the FBI's hands, but who is the strange Special Agent Dammers and what does this all have to do with the mass-murder many years previously of the executed serial killer Johnny Bartlett (Jake Busey)?
Directed by Peter Jackson ("Braindead", "The Lord of the Rings", "King Kong") and produced by Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump", "Contact"), "The Frighteners" is a dark horror-comedy that combines "Ghostbusters" fun with a true sense of terror.
This able combination of themes and ideas seems quite strange at first, and from one viewpoint it might appear to be a little disjoint (it certainly was for the censors), but the transition is actually very fluid and the fast-paced action keeps the story pumping along nicely.
And it's a good story too, utilising everything at its disposal, with solid performances to back it up.
It's always been good to see Michael J. Fox in starring roles, especially since his semi-retirement from acting in 2000 due to his suffering from Parkinson's disease, as he was always a class act, especially with his performances in the "Back to the Future" trilogy and the excellent Vietnam flick "Casualties of War" alongside Sean Penn.
In "The Frighteners" he plays on his physical comedy side, creating a dominating, trench-coat wearing character, regardless of his short height, and he brings a lot of nice quirky mannerisms to the role of Frank Bannister that make him quite loveable.
However, he comes across as a little too quirky to really be a romantic lead contender opposite Trini Alvarado's Lucy, whose frazzled-hair no-nonsense approach is a little stale and very much overshadowed by all the other characters in the film.
The villainous Jake Busey as Johnny Bartlett contrasts nicely with Fox's Bannister, offering a wide-grinning maniac with a loaded shotgun, who, continuing the "Back to the Future" links, reminded me a lot of Thomas F. Wilson's Biff Tannen with a homicidal streak.
Alongside girlfriend Patricia Bradley (Dee Wallace), they make quite a frightening pair.
Back long ago when I first caught this flick (probably some ten years ago now), I always found the trio of friendly ghosts: the Judge (John Astin), Cyrus (Chi McBride) and Stuart (Jim Fyfe), to be one of the most enjoyable elements of the film, from their witty banter and complete contrasting personalities, to their interaction with the modern-day world, from Cyrus and Stuart swinging young babies around a room to the Judge's romp with an Egyptian mummy.
"I like it when they lie still like that."
To top it all is the scarily over-the-top performance of the brilliant Jeffrey Combs as the horrible FBI agent Milton Dammers.
With slick-back hair, pale skin and black leather gloves, this carefully spoken, wide-eyed, abused young man steals his scenes with hammy relish, adding an almost perverse pleasure to the proceedings with his overly sly grin and calculated tone.
Known for his horror-movie personas, he is probably most memorable as the lead in "Re-Animator" and its sequels, as well as his many characters in Star Trek's "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager" and "Enterprise".
As per usual, there is Peter Jackson's directorial trademark of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from himself, as well as a couple of great scenes of R. Lee Ermey as "Full Metal Jacket"'s Gny. Sgt. Hartman-like Sgt. Hiles, graveyard ghost, drill sergeant and protector.
With so many excellent pieces, and some great direction from Jackson, "The Frighteners" is very much a cult VHS favourite that works on many different levels.
Of course, the movie is now over 12 years old, and the CGI looks a bit fishy when compared with some more recent movies, but at the time it was top notch and it is certainly never overused or unneeded.
In fact, this is very much like the "Ghostbusters III" we never got, but with a darker, more evil twist that uses the serial killer storyline to full effect, so be prepared for genuine moments of blood, action and terror, interspersed with moments of tongue-in-cheek humour and one-liners.
Ultimately, this is a movie that is having lots of fun while being dark at the same time, and although it doesn't feel perfect, it's very difficult to find any faults with it.
We even get "Don't Fear the Reaper" to sing us out!
Certainly, this is one of Peter Jackson's 'lost' movies, made in-between his gut-slushing horrors of "Bad Taste" and "Braindead", and the big-budget epics of "The Lord of the Rings" and "King Kong", but it shouldn't be forgotten or ignored.
If you haven't checked it out, it's at least worth a rental or the trouble of catching it on telly.
[The DVD can be purchased from play.com for £3.99 including postage and packing (at time of writing). The DVD includes a trailer and some film-making notes.]
The story revolves around Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) who had a near-death experience in which his wife unfortunately died. After this, Bannister has the ability to see spirits that have not passed on to the "Other Side". He uses three of these spirits to his advantage. Frank claims to be a psychic investigator, when in reality he just uses his "ghost friends" to haunt houses so that he can charge people to exorcise them. But, Bannister gets more than he bargained for when "Death" targets his town and people start dropping like flies. Bannister is the only one who can see "Death" and he's the only one who knows who's going to die next. So, this keeps putting him at the wrong place at the wrong time (and on the wrong side of the law). In comes FBI agent Dammers (played by the great Jeffrey Combs), a special agent whose had a little too many undercover assignments with cults and sects. He believes that Bannister is willing these people to die with his mind. I dont want to ruin the rest for you because I want you to see this great movie.
'The Frighteners' is a superbly directed, supremely offbeat horror comedy that has a style and demeanour all its own. Director Peter Jackson's visual sense is in full flight here and his direction on this film is nothing short of superb, with some truly inspired set pieces that he gives his own distinct visual punch to; creating a truly unique and quirky atmosphere that belies his obvious vision, talent and love of the subject matter.
The script, by Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, is both strikingly original and brilliantly clever, with dashes of the truly inspired mixed throughout along with Jackson's trademark kooky weirdness. Add to this some truly impressive FX that really helps to bring everything to life (so to speak), with some of the creations being particularly inspired, such as the design and movement of the Death-like 'Soul Crusher' proving particularly effective. Likewise Danny Elfman contributes another of his trademark fantastically kooky, weird atmospheric scores that underlines the film perfectly.
Thats not to say that this film is perfect, it does have the occasional hiccup or plot inconsistency (such as why ghosts can fall through one thing, yet be stopped by hitting the ground), but all in all any of these very minor flaws are hardly worth mentioning and don't detract from the film at all, and to point the finger at them is just being overly nit picky. One flaw the film does have however is that the horror and comedy elements don't always gel quite as well as they perhaps should do, however these instances are few and far between and the overall negative effect on the film is thankfully slight (if any).
Performance wise Michael J. Fox is perfectly cast in this film, and is so right in the role of slightly dodgy paranormal investigator that he almost outshines the rest of the (talented) cast; in fact this is probably his best role since 'The Hard Way'. Trini Alvarado meanwhile makes a very attractive female lead and shows definite promise judging by her engaging and well balanced work here. Jeffrey Combs, John Astin, Jake Busey, Dee Wallace Stone, Nicola Cliff, Julianna McCarthy and especially Chi McBride and R. Lee Ermey (in a wonderful piss take of his famous Full Metal Jacket drill instructor role) all add significantly to the fun, while the rest of the cast (Peter Dobson, Troy Evans, Jim Fyfe, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Angela Bloomfield, et al) all provide good, solid support.
Great, horrific (in a good way) fun and as such highly recommended to both horror fans and everyone else.
Audio and video wise this DVD is perfect, below are its specifications:
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio: English - Dolby Digital (5.1)
Run Time: 110 minutes (approx)
Discs: 1 DVD (Dual layer single sided)
Cast & Filmmakers bio
The Frighteners This film is great fun to see and the dvd is excellent quality. It only has the standard contents though, chapter search etc but i bought this for the movie not the extras. Michael plays a very good role in this movie and so does the rest of the cast. It has an excellent storyline and the graphical content is a treat. Michael J Fox plays a psychic investigator who can see ghosts, and lives with a trio of spirits who scare people to promote Fox's scam business. But when an executed serial killer shows up a series of battles begin. He starts noticing glowing numbers on the foreheads of people which signifies the number of the victim to be for the serial killer. This prompts Frank to try and stop the spooky killer(Michael), and the fun begins. The police start to think Frank has something to do with the killings with him often being at the scene and with his own fiancee dying when they had a car crash, however Frank remembers that it was not him who killed his girlfriend and she had in fact been one of the early victims of the killers. Frank had been living only a former shadow of his life as he couldn't come to terms with the loss of his partner, but things soon change. He even dies and gets brought back to life to try and battle the evil spirit, which is fun to see . He enlists the help of a friend to do this who then becomes a target herself, but with the two of them going through so much together love blossoms between them. The special effects here are brilliant and the use of computer graphics are evedent throughout the film, they are second to none especially the evil spirit and great fun scenes like sarge who keeps the spirits in the cemetary in their graves. The movie itself is good fun to watch and has some brilliant special effects. It blends a horror movie with a good dose of comedy and even though they have tried to repeat this with movies like Scary M
ovie i still think goes one better. The movie isn't designed though to be a comedy but the trio of spirits that live with Frank are great fun especially the old gunslinger. Michael J. Fox - Frank Bannister Trini Alvarado - Lucy Lynskey Peter Dobson - Ray Lynskey John Astin - Judge Jeffrey Combs - Special Agent Milton Dammers Dee Wallace-Stone - Patricia Bradley Jake Busey - Johnny Bartlett Columbia Tri-Star Home Video 105 minutes Colour, PAL, Widescreen
I saw this film around 4 years after borrowing it from my cousin. I watched it and with the next chance I had bought it on video. Having watched easily over 10 times now I can honestly say I’m still not bored with it. It’s a solid film with the right amount of comedy mixed with a good amount of horror, therefore the whole purpose of me writing this opinion is to get more people to see this film, everyone who I’ve recommended it to, have agreed that is it an extremely good film and if you watch it, which I hope you do, I think you’ll enjoy it on as many levels as I have. Peter Jackson is man who Co-writes, Co-produces and directs this film but is probably best know for his B-movie horror film “Bad Attitude”, but will be one of the biggest names in film by Christmas as he has the supreme task of directing “The Lord Of The Rings” which I personally can’t wait for. With Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future, What Lies Beneath & Forrest Gump) Executive Producing and the almighty Danny Elfman who in my view is the best of the best when it comes to film scores, with Batman, any Tim Burton film and The Simpsons Main Title Tune among his credits, this film is already off to a winner, oh and there’s Michael J Fox. The film revolves around Fox as Frank Bannister who makes a living as a Psychic Investigator, removing ghosts from “Haunted Houses”, but this is the prefect con due to his unique ability to see and speak to the very ghosts he is trying to remove from the houses. Together with his small band of spooks, Frank scares the living hell out of members of the public, by having his ghouls levitate beds, bang toilet seats up and down and in one of best scenes make babies fly! But this is only the beginning he soon finds himself entangled in the middle of the main story. Many of the town’s people are dropping like flies, all dying from unknown causes, they seem to hav
e suffered heart attacks but when they go for an autopsy all their arteries are as clean as a whistle, this is where Franks work comes in he attends funerals of the deceased handing out his business cards and picking members of the public as his next “victim”. Only through bad driving does he stumble on the dark forces at hand. He crashes through a couple’s front fence rupturing their lawn. After being threatened by legal action he decides that these will be his next victims. He lets his ghosts terrify the couple and also plant one of his business cards close at hand. Frank arrives and after claiming that this is the worst case he has ever seen, after agreeing the price which is that he doesn’t have to pay for the damage to their lawn, he spreads his Holy water and after a short time a small bag pops out of his machine which he claims to be the emanations, after asking whether they would like to keep them as souvenirs he flushes them down the sink. As he is being pushed out of the door he sees a flaming number of the guys forehead, this spooks him as it is in the same form that was marked on his wife’s forehead after she died in a car accident! All the while a dark spirit on is a killing rampage through the town, and due to Frank’s line of work the people begin to believe he is behind it. Little do they know that he is the only one who is capable of catching and “killing” the ghost! I won’t go much further into the story as I cannot see the point of describing it in detail, it will only ruin the experience of this film and you probably won’t see the point in watching it if I have told you what happens at the end. Michael J Fox is outstanding as Frank Bannister and together with a cast consisting of Jake Busey, Trini Alvarado and Jeffrey Coombs as the FBI agent who really does steal the show in this scary but ultimately hilarious role and with R Lee Ermy bringin
g a very small amount of Full Metal Jacket to this film as the ghost who watches over the cemetery this is indeed a very fine cast, with truly commendable performances. The special effects are impressive for a film that was never really a box office success and the music matches the moments of the film perfectly bringing across the moments fantastically. This is one of the rare films that doesn’t slow down or make you feel the need to pause it and go have a drink or go to the toilet half way through, you do not lose interest at any point. If this is anything to go by, then Peter Jackson’s next project, which I mentioned earlier The Lord Of The Rings will be one of the most visually stunning pieces of cinema ever made. Hopefully what I have written will entice you to rent or buy this film. HMV have it in nearly each sale they have. So for the small amount of about £5 you can have this most enjoyable film that I have placed in my top 10 films of all time (go read my opinion on that too). Just watch this film and give it the credibility it deserves.
I?ve finally managed to get my video player working, with the help of lots of tender loving care, a head cleaner cassette and a few choice slaps to the black casing! So, I was able to watch a video I brought several months ago. I do like a good ghost story, and The Frighteners is definitely a good ghost story. You may not have heard of this film, it was directed by Peter Jackson, and had Robert Zemeckis of Forrest Gump and Back to the Future fame as Executive Producer. It was released in 1996 but did not seem to have a lot of publicity at the time, and the same lack of publicity happened when it was released on video, which is good for me as I managed to pick up a copy in the bargain bin for £3.99!!! Anyway, about the film. Michael J. Fox of Back to the Future fame plays psychic investigator Frank Bannister, who drives a very cool, but very beat up old Volvo extremely badly. He has the unfortunate habit of driving over lawns, smashing a few white picket fences and crushing the odd poor unfortunate gnome that was just minding its own business on the grass. Frank Bannister is a bit of a lovable conman, ridding haunted houses of unwelcome spirits. He?s not a complete conman as there really are ghosts in the properties he works in, it?s just that he?s in cahoots with these ghosts, which he can see and talk to after a car accident he had several years ago (other people cannot see these spirits, only their actions such as lifting beds and carrying small children around the house!) So he arranges for these ghosts to do the odd haunting and leave his card, then charges an extortionate sum to remove the unwanted guests, the perfect scam! Things start to go wrong when an evil spirit (there?s always one isn?t there!) appears, killing people by squeezing the life out of them, literally. Unfortunately, Frank appears to be the prime suspect and has to set about stopping the evil spirit to save his own skin, and that of his lovely co-st
ar Lucy Lynskey, played by Trina Alvarado, who also happens to play the obligatory love interest. She is next on the hit list, and time is running out fro Frank to help her and himself. Who is the spirit and why is he going on a killing spree? Why does he wear that big dark cloak? And why does popcorn cost so much at the cinema? Well I?m not going to tell you, that would ruin all the fun, you?ll have to watch it yourself to find out. During the film, Frank manages to pull of the remarkable feat of dying twice in one movie. I?m not going to tell you is he was resurrected twice, you?ll have to wait and see! The film is a cross between a comedy, ghost story and thriller, all rolled into one, and despite crossing three separate genres, it all seems to get together really well. I?m a bit biased because I?m a bit of a fan of Michael J. Fox, but this is a funny and gripping film. It has some excellent special effects for the ghosts, and a excellent final scene switching between the present and the past. The Frighteneres 15 Certificate Universal Studios
The Frighteners, released in 1996, is the creation of director Peter Jackson and executive producer Robert Zemeckis and is as far as I am concerned one of the best dark comedies ever made. Staring Michael J Fox (Back to the Future), Trini Alverado, Jeffery Combs, John Astin, Jake Busey (Starship Troopers) and many more this is a very entertaining film. The film also boats some very good special effects and some cleaver cinematography. ~~Content~~ The Frighteners has a 15 certificate so you must expect occasional, moderate and sometimes bloody violence. Occasionally the language is quite strong and in places there is moderate nudity. The theme to this film is a comedy horror with ghosts. ~~My Thoughts~~ This is a very good film with a strong cast, which put there all into this film. Michael J Fox is great in this film; you can see some of the qualities, which made him a success in the Back to the Future films. Jake Busey also puts in a very good performance and seems to take in his father?s footsteps and seems to play bad guys very well. This combined with some very good special effects and a superb story and script make for a very witty film. ******** Warning: If you want to watch this film, do not read on, as it will spoil it for you. ******** ~~The Film~~ Frank Banister (Michael J Fox) is a former architect turned ghost hunter. Ever since his wife died in a car crash, which he was in, he has been able to see ghosts. With him are three ghosts who haunt people?s houses for him and obviously help him to make money. Part of the way through the film he starts to see people with numbers carved into their head. Well not actually carved into their heads but they seem to be ghost carvings, then later these people seem to die of heart attacks. One of these peoples wives, a Doctor, is looking into the history of Fairwater, the town the film is set in. She finds out that about 30 years ago there was a mass
murder at the hospital by someone called Johnny (Jake Busey). As Frank Banister seems to know when and be near these people when they die he is suspected of the murders by an eccentric, yet dumb, FBI agent (who seems to be in charge of the X-Files!). Soon Frank Banister realises what is going on and the only way to stop this happening is to kill the ghost of Johnny. Helped by the Doctor he is frozen so that he can walk around as a ghost and hopefully stop these murders happening. ~~The Special Effects~~ The main special effects are those of the ghosts. The actors playing the ghost have been turned into black and white, slightly see through, glowing ghosts. These ghosts proceed to walk through walls and be chopped up into tiny bits after going through a car engine. These special effects make the film seem quite realistic, well as realistic as you can get anyway. There is also some quite good parts where at one moment Frank Banister is seeing one thing, then suddenly as a flash back he sees another thing, this is done very well. ~~My Thoughts~~ See above, there does not seem much point repeating myself. Happy Viewing :-)
Peter Jackson has become a bit of a master at the weird and often sick horror/comedy mixtures of Bad Taste and Braindead (or Dead Alive), this however is still a comedy/horror but without the sickness. Jackson, who is currently directing the first of the 'The lord of the rings' films, is from New Zealand and this film is shot entirely over there. The story revolves around Frank Bannister (played superbly by Michael J. Fox) who is working as a kind of 'Ghostbuster' getting rid of ghosts for people who pay him. He is living in a house he was building but never finished, after suffering a near death experience Frank gained the ability to see and talk to ghosts, he meets two ghosts who help him make up a scam in which thet help him scare people who hire him to get rid of them. Things start to get bad when a series of strange deaats start to occur which all point to Frank, even though he did not commit these deaths he has no way of proving he is innocent and everyone around starts to believe he did them. So now Frank and his friendly ghosts decide to find out what is really going before time runs out for him, because by now the police and their special agent (Jeffrey Combs) are hot on his trail, the agent will stop at nothing to catch Frank and will not believe he is innocent even when he catches the real killer. The Frighteners really gets the horror/comedy mixture spot on, it contains enough of Jacksons trademark tongue in cheek jokes and black humour with the dark atmosphere to keep you on your toes. The atmosphere the film builds up is excellent with a lot of the film in the dark, it does have a couple of good scares not usually found in horror/comedy films, then towards the end Jackson ups the tension to the max. Computer effects and CGI seem to be used alot in this film, since Frank is talking to ghosts throughout the whole film they had to create the ghsot effect. Rick Baker (Men in Black) was in charge of making the ghos
ts, Jackson does have is own effects company set up in New Zealand so he can work totally independent of Hollywood, but in the end they couldnt handle the computer effects and an outside source was caught in the shape of Baker. The effects team must of been good as the effects thoughout the film are top notch, you cant really tell they have used a blue screen for the ghosts it works that well. For the lead role Michael J. Fox is an excellent choice, we havent really had the chance ot see Fox in a really serious role, but here he has to have a hint of seriousness about him which he carries off well. His comic timing and overall apperance are superb and probably just what Jackson was looking for. Now we move on to B-movie legend Jeffrey Combs, who will forever be known was the mad doctor in the Re-Animator series, here is plays the sleazy and slimy special agent on Franks back. Combs character has a really slick haircut and takes his job a bit too serious, but the more you see of him the more his character develops and we end up finiding out he his a very sicka nd twisted guy. The DVD is presented in the widescreen cut used in the cinemas and the picture is sharp with all the colours perfect and no grain whatso ever, even in the dark (which a lot of this filmi s in), the colour and detial on screen never lose any quality and stay perfect, for picture quality it is up there with the Sleepy Hollow DVD at the top. The ments are animated with music and fit the style of the film well but the only extra we get is the trailer. Its funny as the American Laserdisc release contained a whole second disk full of extras including commentary from Jackson. Far greater than the recently released 'Scary Movie' this film knows how to combine the two genres and is a film fans of both genres should see. The UK cinema release needing two cuts to be allowed a 15 rating and Jackson himself makes a cameo as the bearded and pierced man who Frank bumps into a
minute before the ghost of Ray knocks him down.
An unusual combination of horror and comedy, this film has Michael J. Fox as a psychic detective exploiting his ability to see spirits. When his home town falls victim to a series of unexpected deaths, Fox is horrified that he can see death marking a number on the forehead of his next victim. Fox is assisted by Trini Alvarado playing the town doctor Lucy Lynskey. An excellently over the top special agent played by Jeffrey Combs. John Astin is especially memorable as the Judge. This film is certainly not comfortable viewing for anyone who has recently lost a friend or relative, the dead are portrayed as wandering the earth, Fox treats his "ghosts" with little respect, and the love interest is facilitated by the untimely death of Alvarado's screen husband.
One movie-lover's nightmare is another's raucous joyride, and this special effects-laden horror comedy is bound to split both camps right down the middle. Michael J Fox plays a psychic investigator who can actually see ghosts, and lives with a trio of spirits who scare people to promote Fox's ghost-busting business. In a town infamous for serial killings, a new series of deaths prompts Fox to induce his own out-of-body experience so he can battle death in a spirit-plagued netherworld where evil reigns supreme--or something like that. So much happens in this chaotic film that you might feel like you're watching several movies at once--a slasher pic, a supernatural thriller, and a black comedy all rolled into one non-stop showcase for grisly makeup and a dozen varieties of special effects. It's an odd but wildly inventive film from New Zealand director Peter Jackson, who earned critical acclaim for his previous film Heavenly Creatures and would later create the ingenious pseudo-documentary Forgotten Silver. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com