The Frighteners (1996)

“Summer of Film #15 of 100”:
Did somebody at New Line actually watch Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners and say- “I think they’re right. Let’s give him $300 million and let him make his Lord of the Rings“. I think so; it’s that good a movie, though not exactly the way the LOTR are.

Interestingly, back in 1996, film critic “Roger Ebert said”:

But all of that incredible effort has resulted in a film that looks more like a demo reel than a movie–like the kind of audition tape a special-effects expert would put together, hoping to impress a producer enough to give him a real job. Peter Jackson, who directed “The Frighteners” (and 1994’s much better “Heavenly Creatures”) qualifies on the basis of this film for any special-effects movie you can imagine, just as long as it’s about something.

And it did get him a job. It got him LOTR.

The Frighteners stars Michael J. Fox as a ‘Psychic Investigator’ who, after a traumatic incident, can see and communicate with the living dead. Of course, the best way he can think of to make use of this is to have his posse of ghosts wreak havoc on people before going in to help them. For a fee of course. This is all fine until an strange ghost appearing to be the grim reaper, Death Himself, starts paying an unhealthy amount of of attention to the people in town causing 26 mysterious deaths. All of this might sound like a great premise for a slasher-of-the-month, but what make The Frighteners a pleasure beyond words is that Peter Jackson treats the material as a comedy. Not a comedy of dialogue or slapstick (ok, there is a little of that), but a comedy that knows the humor of its own premise.


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