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The Frighteners (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Frighteners (DVD)
Advantages: Comical, Michael J Fox
Disadvantages: Overly silly at times
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
Summary: Not much substance, but light-hearted if that's what you want