Tigris Rose reviews: The Frighteners (1996)

The Frighteners (1996)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh & Peter Jackson

This movie has a lot of ups and downs for the classic movie lover of horror. All the makings of a really great horror movie, but at the same time there was so much camp and crappy 90’s CGI that well it didn’t quite hit the thresh hold of scary.

The story line jumps around a bit, especially towards the beginning when they are trying to explain a phenomenon of murders in a small town of Fairwater. Chronologically the story starts in the 60’s when a orderly John Bartlett kills 12 people in cold blood from in a hospital. Bartlett would be executed by the chair for the murders, but his girlfriend would go to jail, to be released later in the care of her mother.

Jump into the future about 40 years and you come to Micheal J. Fox, who plays Frank Bannister a grieving widow, con-artist. After the death of his wife, he gained the ability to see ghosts. Bannister with the help of three misfit ghosts, Stewart a geeky hypochondriac, Cryus a funky black man from the age of disco, and The Judge an old falling apart at the bones specter from the old west, they con people as Bannister is a confidence ghostbuster.

Skip around a bit with the deaths of 28 people. At first seems like a heart attack, but after the autopsy they find out their hearts have been crushed. Bannister being his own gateway to the other realm sees these ectoplasm numbers etched in the foreheads from a “Death” like shadow that has been killing innocents by crushing the hearts of the murdered victims. Bannister tries to solve what this new shadow of death is doing before the law catches up with him and before others get murdered.

Anyway, I won’t give away anymore, you will just have to find out how the movie ends and get through the twists of this weird Ghostbusters meets, Steven King, in Ted Bundy package. The movie has a lot of camp especially from the three ghosts that live and work with Bannister. They have a lot of one liners and do what most specters do when stuck in the middle of heaven and hell and that is complain… a lot!

One terribly funny scene is the Sargent in the graveyard. You first meet him after the death of the lady doctors husband as Bannister helps the husband’s spirit come to grips with the fact he’s dead. But the Sargent just drills Bannister for coming into his yard treating ghosts like he does. The scene which is awful yet, distastefully amusing is that in the process of getting the dead husband to his funeral the Sargent stops Bannister and just drills him with disgust. The Sargent then displays a cycle of transformations in order to subdue Bannister and knocks him on his ass. The morphing is kind of cool for the 90’s however the campiness of this scene just begs to be laughed at.

Then there is FBI agent Milton Dammers is a Hitler looking, crazy, catatonic, paranoid personality is the weirdest occult conspiracy theorist ever. Dammers is the FBI’s leading investigator in the cases dealing with the weird. You find out in the movie that his first assignment was being a part of Charles Manson’s family as a sex slave. He goes on about being a part of rituals and rites that your pastor wouldn’t approve of. But his theories are lacking in fact or results as he tries to confront Bannister, blaming him for the 28 murders, and even the death of Bannister’s own wife. Who was the first murder in 1990 after the release of Bartlett’s girlfriend from jail. Thankfully the agent gets his in the end, despite not crossing completely over.

As you follow the story you see the 90’s CGI, infancy compare to what we have now, which is funny because of who directs this movie. Although when you watch the Return of the King and watch the scene where Aragon travels into the mountain to retain the aid of the ghosts the CGI in the specters of both movies aren’t that different. Its the morphing and the movements that kill you. One terrible scene in particular is when the two murderers end up in the tunnel of light, and Bannister and his specter friends from heaven watch it turn into as Cryus says “The Express Bus to Hell,” god was that awful. CGI thankfully has came a long way since 1996. Thankfully so has Peter Jackson’s directing. ((All Hail the King of Middle Earth!!!))

I love this movie, however, I really don’t know why. Nostalgia for Michael J. Fox. Love of ghost folklore stories. Glutton for punishment, I will never know. This is definably in a “B MOVIE” category because Michael J. Fox is the only “star” in the whole thing. Sure there are actors you recognize like the Ghost Sargent, the cop, the doctor and a few others. But lets face it Michael J. Fox is the big name on the marquee for this one. Plus it was a $30,000,000 budgeted movie and only grossed $16,000,000. OUCH!

Blog rating I have to give the movie a C-. Mostly for the campiness, the terrible CGI, and the fact it was a great story but didn’t quite hit the complete mark on thriller/horror. Personally I love this movie, I love campy, love the story, so I also have to rate it as a “B” for guilty pleasure sake.

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5 Responses to “Tigris Rose reviews: The Frighteners (1996)”

  1. The Frighteners was definitely a guilty pleasure for me. I saw it when I was 9 and it was the first time I’d gone to a movie theater and the theater was empty (minus one other couple who were nowhere near me). I think the film stuck out mostly for that reason. I agree with the campiness and the overall attempt at comedy that mostly fell flat, but I enjoyed it at the time for what it was.

    And I still fucking hate Lord of The Rings and everything it stands for.

  2. I have a soft spot for The Frighteners, but it is sort of a misfire. The tonal shifts are a bit jarring, especially during the third act. It reeks of a film that had too many studio hands involved in it and I’m quite sure that Jackson had domething else in mind. Michael J Fox and Jeffery Combs are great in this, though.

  3. chainsawcheerleader Says:

    I agree with Tick. Michael J Fox was great in The Frighteners. For me, it is kind of hard to see this film as a horror movie because Fox is in it. They do play this on the Disney Channel every October. So, I guess there are other people out there that don’t see this movie as scary either.

    Great job, Sam.

  4. tigrisrose Says:

    I just hate to think that they wanted this to be an A movie. Because it really really missed! I love it for the fact its bad, like I said guilty pleasure. But this was the last big project for Fox before he started Spin City.

    and Sabbath, Fuck you I love Lord of the Rings!!!!

  5. This movie hooked me early..then just fell flat. I really, really wanted it to be good. Your review was great…and makes me want to see it again. I’ve only seen it once….and I just remember being disappointed. I remember thinking that it just didn’t seem like it knew what kind of movie it wanted to be. Time to queue it up.

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