Monday, October 31, 2016

MR The Frighteners

Let's end this Halloween's Horror-A-Ton with the perfect little ghost story for the night.

I did Braindead before. Here's another underrated Peter Jackson classic before he lost himself in Tolkien lore!
When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

Movie: The Frighteners
Directed by Peter Jackson
Release date July 1996 
Genre Supernatural/horror comedy B-movie
Country USA/New Zealand

Following his success with small-budget splatter films like Braindead, Peter Jackson started making bigger and better films for actual Hollywood studios.

As his budgets grew bigger and his films drew bigger Hollywood stars, including getting Academy Award nominations, he made one last comedy horror film entirely set in New Zealand (despite the story being set in the US) - The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox, in 1996.

A zany ghost story co-produced between Jackson's own WingNut Films and Universal Pictures.

The story is kind of obscure at first, it's a mystery and the film doesn't tell us right from the start who our main character is.

Michael J. Fox plays Frank Bannister, a "ghost hunter" with psychic abilities who used to be an architect before the death of his wife.

We find out he can actually see and interact with ghosts and has been running a little scam business of his own on the locals. He works with three ghost friends of his, a 1880s cowboy ghost, a 1950s nerd ghost and a 1970s gangster ghost. They haunt houses for Frank so he can exorcise them later for a fee!

One night he catches a glimpse of what appears to be a Grim Reaper-like creature. And right around this time a plague of murders I mean heart attacks befalls the town, which might be related with the ultimate death of his wife and a mass killing spree from a few decades ago.

People blame Frank Bannister, of course, since nobody can see these ghosts and he always shows up whenever someone is killed by the creature.

A lot of shenanigans happen, Frank is forced to get into a near-death state to get his hangs on the monster... which is revealed to be the spirit of a mass murderer returned from beyond the grave!

The Frighteners was actually imagined as a possible spinoff film from the television series Tales from the Crypt by cult Hollywood producer Robert Zemeckis. Peter Jackson and his wife & co-writer Fran Walsh were hired to write the script with the original idea being for Zemeckis himself to direct the film. But the more the project progressed, the more Zemeckis preferred to have Peter Jackson himself direct the film.

With Peter Jackson's increasing popularity and success, his own special effects studio Weta Workshop also grew larger. Increasing their workload and diversifying their catalog, including now working both digital and practical effects. They crafted a ton of very diverse special effects for this film. All sorts of effects such as prosthetics, scale models and a lot of early CGi work. All shots also basically required some post-production work due to the presence of the ghosts. Weta was quite small at the time and inexperienced being pioneers in the field, they even got some help from guys ILM supervising some of their work.

The film stars a really fun genre all-star cast, featuring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Dee Wallace Stone, Jeffrey Combs and the infamous Jake Busey. Jeffrey Combs is clearly having a lot of fun playing this crazy side special agent character, the total opposite of his usual calmer mad scientist in the role of the Re-Animator, for example. On a sad note, Michael J. Fox was here playing his last leading role in a theatrical feature film, but he still gave his all and has a great crazy main character here (he would still star in a few seasons of the show Spin City the following next years though). All the characters are kinda crazy in this film, not unlike Braindead's cast of characters. And as usual with his films, Peter Jackson even gets a fun small quirky cameo.

Despite some great reception at the time, the film was not a big success. But it has grew into a cult beloved film over the years for a good reason. In fact this is one of those rare time a studio, Universal, supported the film so much they brought the release date closer by 4 months! On Robert Zemeckis' demand they left entire creative freedom in the hands of Peter Jackson and they loved his first rough cut of the film.

The Frighteners is a fun ghost story.

It's also a murder mystery, an horror comedy film and exactly what you'd expect from a typical (old school) Peter Jackson-style B-movie film.

The film is kind of messy, but it has a lot of fun creative visuals. Including a very creepy-looking Grim Reaper creature which would go on to inspire the visual of the Nazgûl in Peter Jackson's own Lord of the Rings films.

Along with his film Heavenly Creatures this film helped catch the attention of Hollywood.

Even though it's not really what I would call a big mainstream-friendly film. It has a very similar and quirky tone to Braindead.

It's such a fun frantic fast-paced adventure, it's never dull. At times it can be a bit uneven, you can certainly feel a couple of rewrites here and there. But it's always fun and full of original ideas.

It starts as a fairly conventional ghost story but as it goes along it gets more and more subplots and the atmosphere is kind of all over the place.

The Frighteners is a really fun horror comedy film. It is maybe not as gory nor campy as his past films such as Bad Taste and Braindead.

It's a really fun crazy film actually that really delivers and can be clever and quite original.

I love its quirky tone!

The music Danny Elfman did for the film is... kinda invasive. At best it sounds as zany as you'd expect from an horror comedy scored by Danny Elfman, it's pretty close to his work on Beetlejuice for comparison. But at worst it can get loud and obnoxious, and often obscure the dialogues and scenes it plays in. Peter Jackson wasn't as perfectionist and masterfully as he is nowadays I suppose. I love how frantic and gothic it gets, but it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Overall, The Frighteners is a fantastic quirky Peter Jackson film. Very offbeat and frantic.

Some parts of the film might already feel slightly dated, but it's still a pretty ambitious little horror comedy film that can be loud and look like a big budget blockbuster at the time.

This one comes Highly Recommended! The film is sort of reminiscent of Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice.

It has some of my favorite ghost effects. Even if they were basically half-transparent blue-colored digital effects, I like how they always slightly warped the scenery behind them! Plus some of the damages they go through looked quite gory! 

The film marked Peter Jackson's transition from a small indie filmmaker into big budget Hollywood productions!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

No comments:

Post a Comment