The Frighteners Synopsis: After a tragic car accident kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.
Tagline: Death is no way to make a living!
Release Date: July 19, 1996
Runtime: 1 hr. 50 min.
Coolthulhus Earned: 3
The Frighteners Review
The Frighteners, quite honestly, is a little harder to review than I thought it would be. It’s pretty much a horror comedy but it’s nothing along the lines of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. The humour is dry for the most part and instead of cracking up it produces mostly light chuckles and amusement.
Michael J. Fox is great in it and it’s a more unusual part for him to play. He’s cynical and kind of a jerk through most of the movie. Since we’re used to seeing The Fox in more good-natured roles it was a huge departure for him that he pulls off amazingly. As far as the rest of the cast there is truly a stellar line-up which includes John Astin, Jake Busey, Jeffrey Combs (who is definitely no stranger to the horror genre) and Dee Wallace (who, again, is one of horror’s ‘familiar faces’).
The plot of The Frighteners is entertaining overall with some genuinely creepy and dark moments. There is a reveal at the end that was surprising but also felt like a bit of a cheat. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling it, The pacing is good throughout, with no real lags in the action.
There are a few minor issues with it, however. The love story that’s shoe-horned into it being the biggest. The movie’s timeline seems to take place over two weeks, at the most. But in that time the character of Dr. Lucy Lynskey loses her husband and then almost immediately falls in love with Frank Bannister. I’m never a fan of insta-love and when you mix in the fact that her husband just died it becomes a bit more…icky. They do try to wave it off with a “we haven’t been happy for some time” but it doesn’t feel like enough.
There are a few oddities in The Frighteners that don’t exactly tank it but will leave you scratching your head a bit at the sheer ridiculousness. For instance, Frank Bannister is on the police radar because he makes his living as a “ghostbuster”. So, naturally, they seem to think that he has something to do with deaths that are perhaps psychically caused. No real shocker there but everyone in town seems to think he’s nothing more than a con man and make it abundantly clear they don’t believe in ghosts. So it makes it a bit puzzling why they would even connect the two. Also, Combs’ character, while extremely fun, is a bit puzzling. There is absolutely no motivation or explanation for half the things he does. But, to give him credit, you have so much fun watching him be batshit crazy that it almost doesn’t matter.
The effects in The Frighteners are insane. They do not look dated at all. Of course, with Zemeckis in charge that’s not much of a surprise. The movie came out in 1996 and I’ve seen movies from 1999 – 2000’s with more dated looking CGI than this. The Reaper, the mouth of hell (literally) and more all look amazing. Danny Elfman also creates an amazing score to go with. But then, when doesn’t he?
With all of the serious star-power behind The Frighteners it’s a little strange that this movie seems to slip under the radar so often. It’s not perfect but it’s certainly worth a Halloween watch.