The Frighteners follows Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), as he operates a low-rent ghost-busting business out of his (unfinished) home. Many of the locals consider Frank a con artist, and they're right --- just not in the way they think. Following a car accident that killed his wife, Frank gained the ability to see and speak to ghosts. In fact, a trio of ghosts --- disco gangster Cyrus (Chi McBride), classic nerd Stuart (Jim Fyfe), and Old West veteran The Judge (John Astin) --- are his only friends, as well as his business partners.
Trini Alvarado) and her awful husband, Ray (Peter Dobson); Ray drops dead and starts pestering Frank, so Frank starts spending time with Lucy, only to fall in love with her. Unfortunately, there seems to be a rogue ghost that is murdering folks around town. Even more unfortunately, the FBI believes that Frank is the killer. Worse still, the killer likes to mark his upcoming victims with a ghostly number on their forehead...and Lucy is lucky number forty-one.
The special effects in The Frighteners are probably the most memorable aspect of the film. They still look pretty good, even if the CGI is a little dated now. It just depends on how creative Peter Jackson & co. were. For instance, the whole killer-pressing-his-face-out-of-the-wall bit wasn't that great.
|MJF realizing that they're aping A Nightmare on Elm Street 12 years too late|
|I will never forget shit stain Jake Busey face|
The acting in The Frighteners is pretty much all over the place. Michael J. Fox doesn't play angsty very well, and a lot of his character's mannerisms bring Marty McFly to mind. He's still able to make the character likable, though, even when the script doesn't do him any favors. Trini Alvarado played a paper-thin character, and she didn't do it very well. I get it, her role was poorly written --- that doesn't excuse her lack of range. Of the ghosts, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, and John Astin probably got the most screen time, but the most entertaining one was definitely R. Lee Ermey playing a (surprise!) drill instructor. Yes, he's done this schtick before, but he does it well.
|His likes could be "Blah, blah, blah, maggot!" and I'd still smile|
|Above: Combs as "An asshole with an uzi" --- actual movie quote|
|I'm not entirely convinced this isn't Combs' actual chest|
Director and co-writer Peter Jackson made an unusual film in The Frighteners. It's not a straight-up horror movie, but it's not funny enough to succeed as a horror-comedy hybrid, either. The main reason for this is a dumb script.
|I mean, how do they expect us to believe a dementor got from Azkaban to Australia?|
|Chi McBride's last-ditch meeting to salvage the movie: everybody gets an afro|
The Frighteners is undoubtedly a flawed movie. It's too kooky to be scary, but not funny enough to balance dozens of murders. The central concept is a solid one and Michael J. Fox and the ghosts are likable enough, but the picture doesn't gel as a whole. Even Danny Elfman's score feels a little scatterbrained. Is there a good idea for a movie here? Yes. Does The Frighteners pull it off? Not really, but it's not offensively bad. It's a good try that didn't quite work.
Am I the only one who watched Michael J. Fox's erratic driving in this movie and immediately blamed it on his Parkinson's? And then felt kind of bad?