Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Frighteners

(1996) ***1/2

Frank Bannister has the uncanny ability to see dead people. Rather than helping them a la 6th sense, ghost whisperer, or being afraid of them, he decides to make money off of them. He sets himself up as a psychic investigator, enlists the ghosts to haunt certain homes, and then shows up to rid the house of said spirits, and charging a fee. The ghosts he works with are simple, comic relief stereotypes - specifically a 70s black man, a college boy and an old west Cowboy (great job from John Astin here). However, things take a turn for the worse as one ghost, dressed as death, begins killing the town's residents and carving numbers in their foreheads. This is an entertaining piece of work, and it refreshingly doesn't fall into the mold of any other horror/comedy films. Actually, this film is much darker than one would expect from a Michael J. Fox movie. The movie begins with some comic relief, but as the plot involving the "reaper" develops, comedy turns to tragedy. I think this film would have actually worked better if it had fully immersed itself as a horror film, but I'm sure that the comedy helped round up a larger audience.

Another notable thing about this film, it was directed by Peter Jackson. Now, I'm in the camp of people who thought the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have made a great 2 hour, 20 minute film, but at 9 hours plus, was an exercise in futility. However, I respect that Peter Jackson made a visually stunning and attractive film (with just a tedious story). Jackson's skill can be seen in this earlier work as he deftly frames a number of small town haunted houses, funerals, cemetaries, and even an abandoned hospital.

A scary movie from Peter Jackson - definitely a hit, even if the comedy is somewhat sub-par.


Octopunk said...

"Now, I'm in the camp of people who thought the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have made a great 2 hour, 20 minute film, but at 9 hours plus, was an exercise in futility."

I have to admit, I never knew there was such a camp. I loved the LOTR movies, and I can't conceive how they could be compressed into 140 minutes. But anyway...

That ghost in The Frighteners might be the scariest CG creature ever created, and I've always thought that movie had some game. If you're checking out Peter Jackson horror, than Dead Alive is a must see. Goriest movie ever.

Jordan said...

"Tedious story"?

Man, you're really asking for it...but you're not going to get it, because I'm such a nice guy. I will simply point out that I respectfully disagree with this assessment.

Jordan said...

I once liked a really cute girl who saw The Fellowship of the Ring and "hated every minute of it." I could kind of get behind her opinion, kind of...but she was really cute, like I said.

HandsomeStan said...

* arms pinned back by others *

I suppose this is what religious people mean when they use the word "blasphemy."

I've never sat through a 3-hour movie (theatrical release of Fellowship) and felt so strongly that I wanted the story to keep going. I spent an entire Saturday watching all 12 hours of the three Director's Cuts straight through, and it was one of the most satisfying movie experiences EVER.

Obviously, everyone on earth is entitled to their opinion, and I would never go so far as to suggest that anyone that can't appreciate what's going on in LotR from either a book, movie, or technical point of view should be blown away with a shotgun. I would never suggest such a thing.

Run over by a crosstown bus, sure. But never shot.

("Tedious story." = *forehead bangs on desk in frustration*)

AC said...

trevor (tami's friend), you're just trying to get our goat by snarking on lotr, right?

if so, touche; if not i'm afraid i have to agree with the fellers.

JPX said...

I remember seeing this in the theater and being surprised by the sea-change from comedy to pretty damn creepy film. I want to check it out to see if it holds up.

Jordan said...

I'm curious about this too. I mean, somebody took a look at this movie and decided that the director was an appropriate choice for the daunting task of making the LOTR movies.

"Peter, we're looking for someone who can effectively convey you think you're up for it?"

"Yes sir"

Trevor (Tami's friend) said...

I would like to formally apologize to the horrorthon community for the "sacreligious" comments made earlier. It was never my intention to shake your faith or cause any frustration. My views are purely my own and in no way represent my spouse, friends, or employer. Thank you for your patience and I promise to walk a more cautios route with regards to any future snap judgments.

Jordan said...

Aw, that's okay.

I think we're not so much offended as incredulous. I mean, we're talking about the "Godfather saga" of fantasy...what state of mind do you have to be in not to enjoy it? There's even a Best Picture/Best Director Oscar winner in there...I can't think of a single Horrorthon movie that's rated that (Although The Exorcist was nominated).

Just for fun, pick a nice rainy afternoon, smoke a doobie (or whatever your intoxicant of choice is), pop in The Fellowship of the Ring (either cut) on a decent system with a good screen, turn the lights out and give it another shot. Your patience may be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.

I remember the third or fourth time I saw Return of the King in the theater, it was some glum afternoon and there were only like a dozen people there. I overheard part of a conversation between two strangers adjacent to me: a middle-aged man said, "First time?" to a young woman. She nodded, and he said, "Oh..." and grinned broadly, and then said, "You're really in for a treat." Here there be wonders beyond imagination.

It's been called the greatest novel of the twentieth century and one of the greatest stories ever told. (Of course, both assessments came from the "International Tedium Association" so there may be some bias involved.)

Jordan said...

My friend Brett, who's brilliant and funny and loves movies (and loves all the same stuff as me), can't stand The Lord of the Rings. I lent him the discs and he got a third of the way through Fellowship (with his wife) and they agreed to stop watching. I can dig it. I mean, they're just movies, after all.