[Movie Review] The Frighteners

The FrightenersStarring: Michael J Fox, Jake Busey, Dee Wallace
Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1996

There are many questions that need answering but none more so than, “why does Michael J Fox still look about 12 years old”? Well he doesn’t really look 12 but the man seems to bathe in the fountain of youth. You might also ask why his career never really took off the way it should have. Obviously he had a lot of success in the mid-eighties (TVs “Family Ties”, Back to the Future trilogy, “Secret of my Success”, “Casualties of War” for example) but that hasn’t translated well into the ninties. Most of his hits have been straight-to-video in Ireland (“Give me a Break”, “The Concierge”, “Greedy”) or else have only been minor roles (“American President”, “Mars Attacks”).

For my part, I have always found him a very good comedian and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Imagine my delight when he was lined up to play the main character in Peter Jackson’s new movie, “The Frighteners”. Who is Peter Jackson? Hey folks, get down to the video store and rent the 1992 horror classic, “Braindead” (aka “Dead Alive”). It’s a comedy horror which contains an insatiable amount of gore. It is so funny. So anyway, time to review the movie, eh?

Frank Bannister (Fox) is a psychic investigator but like all the good ones, he is a total fraud. After a car accident he adopted an amazing ability to see and talk to ghosts. For a living, Bannister sends his three best ghouls, Judge, Cyrus and Stuart, to spook out a family before turning up with his ‘equipment’ to exorcise the ghostly carryings-on. This serves him well until he begins to witness another force in attendance – an evil one that neither he nor his ghosts provided for. When people start turning up dead all over the city, Bannister is the prime suspect and his relationship with a local doctor, Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvardo) only helps to incriminate him further.

The reason I like “The Frighteners” is that it is not just a special effects extravanza. There is a worthy story to be told and even though it is one that is fixated in the world of the unlikely paranormal, it still manages to be real and tangible. The special effects are good – Bannister’s ghostly helpers and the others graveyard dwellers are simplistic but effective. While their movements and jokes (falling through walls, not being able to smoke cigars/drink/eat) get a little ‘samey’, it never becomes a chore to enjoy. The most impressive special effect involves the ‘bad guy’ whom will genuinely spook you.

Jackson has done a good job here. He has created a film that has its fair share of mild frights and genuine tension. Many horrors make the mistake of having over-indulgent, complicated story-lines involving witchcraft and sacrifices where a dead spirit has returned thousands of years after it was killed. As much of a paradox as it is, this paranormal tale is as close to reality as something of this ilk can be. A quality mix of comedy and horror and once again I suggest that you find “Braindead”.


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