Good, Bad & Ugly Review: The Frighteners

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64% (Critics) / 71% (Audience)
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, Chi McBride, Dee Wallace and Jeffrey Combs
Studio: Universal
Synopsis:Charlatan Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has genuine psychic powers, but he doesn’t use them to help people. Rather, he generates cases for his supernatural private-eye firm by harassing a group of hapless ghosts (including a dearly departed Wild West outlaw and an undead judge played by John Astin) into staging hauntings and poltergeists in the homes of likely marks. Bannister’s world turns on its head when he starts noticing real hauntings around town — ghostly assassinations that seem to be tied to the execution 20 years earlier of a brutal serial killer. Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), the wife of one unlucky victim, teams up with Bannister to get to the bottom of the killings and find out what shut-in Patricia Bradley (Dee Wallace Stone) and her witchy mother (Julia McCarthy) have to do with the sinister spree. – (Source)

The Good:
This is the Peter Jackson I love! Now don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Jackson’s later big studio stuff like THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT trilogies and even his overstuffed version of KING KONG but movies like this one are the Jackson that really speaks to me. The amount of over the top, everything and the kitchen sink style of filmmaker he was with this film and DEAD ALIVE and MEET THE FEEBLES there was just a maverick spirit of balls out fuckery that I really miss from the director.
Having re-watched this for the first time in quite a while I was also impressed with how well the effects have held up and also have to give props to the effects team for the way they created the spectral looks of the ghosts. You could tell a lot of time and energy went into the practical effects make-up of the characters before adding on the visual effects in post-production.
I also have a soft spot for this film because it was the last time we got to see Michael J. Fox in full Marty McFly mode before his illness became fully evident.
And Jeffrey Combs is everything…the man can do no wrong in my eyes and his Milton Dammers is one of my favorite freakshows that he has portrayed.

The Bad:
The third act turn into full-blown slasher movie territory was very abrupt and could have been handled a bit better especially since the rest of the film was so high on camp and comedy.

The Ugly:
The frenetic pacing of this movie bordered on being a total clusterfuck at times. A couple of moments to allow the audience to catch their breath would have been welcome and probably helped to maintain a bit more focus.

Final Verdict: One of Peter Jackson’s underrated gems and one of my favorite comedy-horror films. Full of great effects and appealing performances form pretty much everyone involved. Sure it tiptoes on crossing the line into becoming a bit of a frenzied mess but it is a fun mess even in those moments.

Grade: B

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