Saturday Movies: The Frighteners (1996)

So I decided to venture out and find a movie to watch last night. That is different than what makes my usual decision which is whether it’s been something I wanted to see way in advance, or if it’s on the list. I was wanting something a bit light, but also a movie that matched the Halloween atmosphere I felt going on.  That is when I stumbled across one of Peter Jackson’s earlier movies, The Frighteners. It’s like a blend of Beetlejuice and Casper, and unlike a lot of movies dares to get creative.

Summary: Twenty years ago Frank developed the ability to communicate with the dead after a car accident that left his wife dead. Now he makes a living as a psychic, and even though he really can communicate with ghost he still finds a way to con with his powers to turn out money. He works with three other ghost to terrify locales who then are directed to call him to exorcise the evil from their home. When Frank comes across what appears to be the grim reaper in the house that Lucy shares with her husband though, he finds himself fighting to stop the reaper before he takes his next victim.

Acting: Michael J. Fox stars as Frank. This would be Fox’s last leading role he would do in a movie as well. Fox is just a fun actor to watch, and he was perfect for this role. One of the main reasons he got the part was because of Robert Zemekis part in producing this movie. He referred Jackson’s script to Fox, and he wanted the part. Jackson though was actually at first opposed to casting any known actors for his movie, which explains why the rest of the cast is unrecognizable to me. Trini Alvarado is Lucy, and she is good in the part. The other actors a bit weaker, and tend to a lot of too dramatized comedic acting, that is too overacted.

Filming: I love the style that Jackson took this horror comedy in. This is noted as being one of the first movies that used special effects for almost the majority of the movie. Every scene has something involving needing the use of effects. Considering it’s 1996 and the movie wasn’t the highest budget it does have that look. With it being a comedy though thankfully the look doesn’t have to be too picked over. The only huge special effect detractor for me was the grim reaper. His movements and the lighting of his character just took away from his scares.

Plot: There are some major plot problems though that make the movie too ridiculous at times. At one point cops are shooting in a museum within close range to people, and with plenty of places for bullets to ricochet directed at a man who isn’t even armed. I don’t think there is any given chance that would fly. Also, Frank seems to find his way out of the holds of the law very easily. Besides this it’s really the charm of the movie that makes it appealing and even a cult classic.  The two lead characters, Frank and Lucy, do get you to caring about the people involved, and the vibe is well set with the mix of horror and comedy. By the end this movie seems to develop into a great idea. The scenes where Frank and Lucy arrive at the site of a mass murder at the end are well mixed with flashbacks and forwards for terror.

The Frighteners isn’t meant to really terrify, but it does give some nice spooks. Thankfully, Jackson’s mind was changed about hiring an actor with a name or this might have been one to shelve. Sometimes the comedy is a hit and others times it is a miss that seems to almost rely on some child humor to try to get a laugh. With an R rating though, hopefully only adults will be watching this, yet the movie doesn’t always carry itself like it.

Rating 7 of 10.

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