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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 32.69%
Just Average: 15.38%
Pretty Crappy: 1.92%
Sucks: 5.77%

2 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Frighteners, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Busily entertaining, overlooked Peter Jackson effort."
4 stars

Right at the beginning, when the camera dives through a hole in the floor and chases a woman down a flight of stairs, you know this isn't the usual summer bash.

The Frighteners, directed by the hyperactive New Zealander Peter Jackson (who also wrote it with longtime collaborator and companion Frances Walsh), is relentlessly hectic and shamelessly melodramatic. You either go along for the ride or get out and walk. In all, it's the boldest ride of the summer so far -- athletic, prankish, eye-popping. Every frame drips with Jackson's moviemaking fever.

The script, which Jackson and Walsh initially sent to producer Robert Zemeckis as a Tales from the Crypt movie, occasionally betrays its derivative origins. The Frighteners is part Ghostbusters, part Beetlejuice, with sprinkles of Badlands and Poltergeist. Jackson never intended to direct it, but Zemeckis put him in charge anyway. Smart move. Like Brian De Palma, Sam Raimi, and Robert Rodriguez, Jackson pumps energy into clichés until they explode. We've seen some of the plot elements before, but never quite like this.

Michael J. Fox, sporting a hip new brush-cut, is Frank Bannister, a bogus "psychic investigator" with a clever racket: he works with three ghosts who haunt houses and conveniently leave Frank's business card behind. Frank has been busy lately, because people are dropping like flies all around town, their hearts mysteriously "crushed." The police suspect Frank (they're on to his scam), but he's the only one who can see the true killer: no less than Death itself, dressed in Grim Reaper robes.

What is this Death figure? Why do the victims have numbers carved into their foreheads? What does the plot have to do with the harsh old woman who won't let her daughter (E.T.'s Dee Wallace Stone) out of the house? Will Frank find love with a beautiful young doctor (Trini Alvarado), whose recently deceased yuppie husband (Peter Dobson) hangs around as a resentful ghost? Will I answer any of these questions? Nope.

Fox, whose comeback as a leading man deserves to begin here, smoothly handles both the slapstick and the poignant moments (Frank has a tragedy in his past). He works seamlessly with a variety of spectral CGI effects, and he's generous enough to let Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) steal the movie. Playing an obsessed FBI agent driven around the bend by joining too many cults (to spy on them), Combs delivers his dialogue as if he'd just swallowed a live spider. He's creepy even when he isn't doing anything at all; he's a frightener, all right.

The real star of the movie, though, is Peter Jackson. This is his fifth film, and his first for a major studio. Before he spruced up his resume with the Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures, Jackson was notorious for Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Dead Alive -- three of the most hilariously disgusting movies ever made. Heavenly Creatures, brilliant though it was, worried me a bit: Had Jackson actually grown up? No, thank God.

With 'The Frighteners,' Jackson is batting five for five. The question now is whether America is ready for him.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=591&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/01/07 19:21:01
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell good could have been scarier though 4 stars
8/18/13 David Marsden One of my favourite films.Mixes many genres and creates a thrilling ride! 5 stars
2/20/10 hko Peter Jacksons finest after heavenly creatures 4 stars
1/02/09 Mack Peter Jackson's absolute best! 5 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega If you like The Exorcist and Ghostbusters, you'll love this 4 stars
12/26/06 Agent Sands It’s no In the Bedroom, but it's one of those ones you save for a certain time of year. 3 stars
2/23/06 omar covers kinda misleading but its definitely a great movie 5 stars
1/23/06 JM Synth Not scary (is it meant to be?) not funny, or inventive or that much fun... but not bad 3 stars
12/06/05 casey o'dell the movie kicked ass and jeffrey combs is the man in it. 5 stars
11/29/05 Ralph If you love horror comedy, this is your film. 5 stars
11/23/05 kokoro nobody watched this movie when it was released now these fanboys come out of the closet 1 stars
8/17/05 ES Easy K-dog, dont blow a valve, this movie is good popcorn eating fun 4 stars
11/18/04 Zeus Awesome movie! 5 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G Good movie 5 stars
7/11/04 X Yet another kick-ass movie by Peter Jackson 5 stars
3/23/04 john johnson the grim reaper character:shit scary! 5 stars
2/29/04 Star-Crosser Jackson's best, next to those ring movies. 5 stars
1/21/04 American Slasher Goddess One of the most overlooked big budgeted movies of 1996. 4 stars
10/30/03 R.W. Welch Not a bad plot line really, but excessive FX overwhelm the story. 3 stars
10/23/03 HorrorScribbler Terrific. Great chemistry between Fox and Alvarado. 5 stars
10/19/03 Josh Standlee This is my favorite movie! Seriously, I'm not kidding! 5 stars
8/26/03 Gray cool, touching, weird, disturbing,.... worth seeing 5 stars
3/07/03 Jack Sommersby Underrated and misunderstood. Richly textured and creatively developed. 4 stars
10/17/02 Charles Tatum How can I like this when the cast looks miserable? 3 stars
8/19/02 Jim Best horror/comedy since Ghostbusters, and much stronger on the horror than that one. 5 stars
8/11/02 KMG Could've been good, but instead plot was confusing and weird 3 stars
6/19/02 Film Dude The ending is crap, but the rest is good. 4 stars
2/23/02 Mark Lloyd Wonderful premise, wonderful plot, wonderful acting 5 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Carden Stupid and Dumb Movie With Scary Plot, but A Result That Is Too Funny. 2 stars
12/21/01 mark conway crappppppppp 1 stars
11/19/01 Chris K. Hey, it's from the same dude behind BAD TASTE and BRAINDEAD! How good can it get? 5 stars
9/05/01 Gary Funny and surprisingly suspenseful, but it's too long and the finale's crap. 3 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat Cool. 4 stars
6/08/01 Turtle It pays a small homage to Ghostbusters.... Who could turn down a film that does that? 4 stars
7/19/99 Matthew Bartley Perfectly paced,funny and scary 4 stars
7/04/99 Sleeper This filum rocks. 5 stars
10/13/98 philip oh my god it has michael j. fox 1 stars
9/14/98 cheryl_ann peter jackson is the man! 4 stars
8/30/98 Johny Deserves 2.5, I'll round up because Jackson has done much better before 3 stars
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  19-Jul-1996 (R)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2005



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