The Frighteners (1996)

frighteners poster 1996 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking, strong acting, lots of potential

Misses the mark in many places

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Frighteners

Studio:  WingNut Films

Genre(s):  Horror/Comedy

Release Date(s):  July 19, 1996

MPAA Rating:  R

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I think we can all agree that I’m pretty McFly for a white guy!

A killer is stalking the city, he stops the heart of his victims and often leaves a number as a calling card on the head of his victims.  Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has a special tie to the dead.  After the death of his wife under mysterious circumstances, he can see and communicate with ghosts.  Setting himself up as a paranormal investigator, Frank teams with ghosts to “haunt” people and get paid to exorcise homes. Frank meets Dr. Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado) and learns that the recent deaths might be tied to his wife’s death.  As a crafty FBI agent named Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) moves in on Frank, Frank must find a way to stop the ghostly killer and protect Lucy.

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Weird tattoo lady

Directed by Peter Jackson, The Frighteners is a horror comedy. The film was met with so-so reviews, but has since gained a cult following (partially due to Peter Jackson’s success after this film).  The movie has been released on Blu-Ray with an extended director’s cut which added an additional thirteen minutes of footage.

The Frighteners was originally supposed to be part of the Tales from the Crypt series of movies.  Watching the film with that knowledge makes a lot of sense.  The movie has a lot of Tales from the Crypt style of humor mixed with scares and some gore.  A decision to drop the Tales from the Crypt ties and wavering between attempting to get PG-13 Rating and ending up with a R Rating hurt the final product.

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You die now!

The story in the film is really a fun concept; I do however feel it misses its mark.  As I mentioned, I think this should have been really scary and gory.  The simple humor of Fox’s relationship of living in a world surrounded by ghosts could have been utilized more, and his role as a charlatan who uses ghosts to rob people is a classic horror comic book style story.

Michael J. Fox does a nice job and reminds me why he was a fun actor in the ’80s and ’90s.  This was the last starring role for Fox before he turned to television and Spin City (and announced he had Parkinson’s disease).  His supporting cast is also fun with Trini Alvarado as his “partner” and John Astin (the Judge), Chi McBride (Cyrus), Jim Fyfe (Cyrus), and Sgt. Hiles (R. Lee Ermey) as his ghosts.  Dee Wallace always makes a great scream queen, and horror vet Jeffrey Combs is a bit over the top and out of place as the FBI agent (who feels more of a throwback to Jackson’s earlier films).  I still find Jake Busey looks so much like his father that it is creepy.

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Babies are scary…flying or not.

I do like the special effects for this film.  The creature moves smooth and Jackson shows he can work with very high tech effects in this film.  With the ghosts and the people interacting, it also meant a double shooting schedule with “ghost” actors on one shoot and “living” actors on another.  While Heavenly Creatures had effects, it wasn’t as heavy as this film and I imagine that this really helped him land Lord of the Rings.

The Frighteners is good but not great.  I like the idea of the movie better than the actual movie itself.  Peter Jackson has done better (and worse), but it still is a fun and different ride for the popular director.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it, and try to keep an open mind while watching it to see its true potential.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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