Movie: "The Frighteners"
Year: 1996
Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Writing credits: Fred Walsh, Peter Jackson

Reviewer: -RoG-
Posted: 9/25/2008

Plot: Michael J. Fox isn't going through puberty, he's becoming a wolf... Teen Wolf! Oh wait, wrong movie. In this movie, he plays a man who was in a car accident who later developed the ability to communicate with dead people and then exploit them. But now it appears that Death has come to his little town and he may be the only person who can stop all the murders taking place.

Review: Now here's a movie that seems to always fall through the cracks whenever people talk about Peter Jackson's career. Granted, after he finished this movie, he went on to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it's not surprising that The Frighteners would take a back seat to those mega-movies. It's also nowhere near as insanely gory and bizarre as his earlier works such as Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Still, there's a lot to be said for this horror comedy and I think it deserves a lot more credit than it gets.

First off, the cast is definitely one of the biggest things this movie has going for it. Michael J. Fox is as good as one would expect playing the role of Frank Bannister, a man who lost his wife in a car accident years ago and has basically put his dreams on hold for a while. After the accident, he developed the ability to communicate with the dead, so now he uses them to scam people into paying him to exorcise evil spirits from their homes. Jake Busey is also great as the mass murderer Johnny Charles Bartlett. He's so proud of his killing spree that he tells a reporter "Got me a score of twelve, sir! That's one more than Starkweather" What can I say, the guy loves his work. Fans of R. Lee Ermey will also be happy to learn that he has a fun role in the movie which is pretty much the same as his role in Full Metal Jacket, only now he's keeping the dead people at the graveyard in line instead of soldiers. Even good ol' John "Gomez Addams" Astin has a lil' role as The Judge in the film.

But the real show stealer here is the character of Milton Dammers, played by Jeffery Combs (who horror films will forever remember for his role in Re-Animator). He's twitchy, greasy-haired, a nervous wreck and completely deranged. Naturally, this means he's an FBI agent and he's 100% convinced that Frank is responsible for all the deaths that have occurred in town recently. Dammers is a highly memorable character in the film, "territorial bubble" 'n all, and that's why he easily made my "favorite movie assholes" list.

It may be far from his goriest film ever, but The Frighteners is a genuinely fun movie and it definitely puts an interesting spin on the Grim Reaper. Death even has some striking similarities to the Nazgul in Jackson's next film. Check it out if you haven't seen it already and I'm sure you'll agree that The Frighteners should be a part of every horror fan's library.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Fookin' up planets!
Sep 30th, 2008, 05:16 AM
I agree that this is an extremely under rated film. I remember watching this in the theater and really being a bit on edge and scared, while getting mixed up in the comedic elements as well. I bought the special edition of this dvd last year (I think) and they have the best out takes ever of Michael J. Fox yelling to the old west gunfighter character (I think his name was "Judge") calling him "Doc", you know like Doc from back to the future... funny shite I think it be. But this movie is a classic to me and always makes my list of horror films to watch from September to Halloween. Love this damn movie!
Sep 30th, 2008, 11:53 PM
Any movie that has a good amount of time filled with R. Lee Ermey's insane shouting is A-OK in my book.
Drunk Yamo
Oct 1st, 2008, 10:59 AM
Originally Posted by Silver View Post
Any movie that has a good amount of time filled with R. Lee Ermey's insane shouting is A-OK in my book.
It's a shame that as bad-ass as he was in that film, he got taken out like he did. I mean, Jake Busey with a scythe vs. R. Lee Ermey with two M60s? Who would've thought THAT'S the way it would go?
Clean Shaven Nerf Herder
Oct 1st, 2008, 02:50 PM
Truely wonderful flick that nicely bridges the gap (along With "Beautiful Creatures) of Jackson's movies from the early schlock to the epics (excepting "King Kong"'s retardation) of more recent years. Not a baby-zombie-in-the-blender scene to be found, but great, nevertheless.
Admiral of the Undead
Oct 1st, 2008, 07:12 PM
This film has a great warmth to it. It seems like every time I pass it on my satellite guide, I always click and watch it for a few minutes. While not really that scary, the subject matter alone makes it great for halloween viewing! The plot itself is somewhat creative, and is worth noting. Do yourself a favor and check The Frighteners out!
Oct 1st, 2008, 08:43 PM
Oh how I miss Michael J. Fox
Oct 1st, 2008, 09:00 PM
Awsome movie. Really well done.
Admiral of the Undead
Oct 1st, 2008, 11:33 PM
Nick - why do you miss him? He's not dead yet.
Oct 2nd, 2008, 01:41 AM
One of the madre's favorite movies, which sits proudly on our DVD shelf to be snagged off once in a while when you need "something different." I really enjoy this one, especially the few twists. I *still* say, erm, uh...the girl. MJF's "love interest" (braincramping) had an out while Dammer's is ranting to her, but I cover that in the "assholes" article, so...go read that if you haven't already *laughs*
The Power of Grayskull
Oct 3rd, 2008, 08:46 AM
I absolutely agree that this is an extremely underrated film. I loved it the first time I saw it and couldn't understand why no one else had seen it, or even cared to see it. Idiots!
taco loving zombie
Oct 4th, 2008, 12:23 PM
i've been looking for this movie for a long time thanks a lot great review too
Forum Virgin
Oct 5th, 2008, 08:24 PM
I'm not a big fan of Peter Jackson's Stuff. I know I will get a lot of heat saying that from the LOTR fanboys. This movie, however, was actually entertaining. I've always been fascinated with the grim reaper, and I like how they portrayed the grim reaper-type character in this movie.

BTW, i thought about dressing up like a grim reaper this halloween. I want to get some drywall stilts so i can make myself freakishly tall. Already being 6'6" and adding another 18" would be creepy. Plus I can get those arm extenders with giant hands. Now if I can only find an 8" black cloak....hmmm