The Frighteners Movie Review

Ghostbusters meets Twin Peaks? Michael J. Fox's comeback movie? A film about a lazy guy who catches ghosts for a living? A supporting cast of unknowns? Does anyone want to see a movie like this?

Yes! And you'd better get to the theater quick, because The Frighteners, in a manner suggested be the above questions, will not make huge waves at the box office in a crowded field of summer blockbusters.

Nevertheless, The Frighteners is one of those gems that deserves to be seen for its fresh and funny approach to the horror genre. Peter Jackson, writer-director and master of schlock, is behind the camera for the first time since 1994's Heavenly Creatures. His tale this time is most simply described as... Ghostbusters meets Twin Peaks.

It all starts with spirit-chaser Frank Bannister (Fox), whom everyone thinks is a con-man except for the unhappy Lucy (Trini Alvarado). And when people suddenly start turning up mysteriously dead in the town of Fairwater, Frank becomes Suspect #1. While the cops and feds come after him, Frank starts a witch hunt of his own, chasing a Grim Reaper-type character who is really responsible. Meanwhile, Frank's spiritual friends come to his aid.

No, the one-paragraph description doesn't do it justice, but trust me, after 30 minutes of rough exposition, Jackson hits his stride, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense until 10 minutes from the end. No matter, because the payoff is worth it, and along the way we are treated to the end-result of the morphing effects Jackson began meddling with in Heavenly Creatures.

Even better is a performance by co-star Alvarado, who steals the show from Fox and the ghosts (not an easy feat) with her graceful beauty and excellent acting ability. If I were a studio exec, I'd be throwing lots and lots of money at her right now, because this girl (who most recently appeared in Little Women, is going to be a star [Alas.... -Ed.]. I have to admire Jackson's casting ability -- after all, he discovered Kate Winslet for Heavenly, now Alvarado... who's next? (Me!)

And my gushing about fair Trini is not to detract from Fox or the other co-stars, the most notable of which are R. Lee Ermey, recreating (as a ghost) his sergeant role from Full Metal Jacket, and Jeffrey Combs (yes, the Re-Animator himself), as the most twisted FBI agent you'll ever see on film.

Jackson's innovative use of flashback and humor overcome the script's shortcomings and some surprisingly bad (and annoying) voice dubbing, but only if you give the film a chance to pick up some steam. Early judges will not be pleased. Jackson's fans will be elated.


The Frighteners Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1996


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