February 19, 2014
Michael J. Fox, Trini
Alvarado, Dee Wallace, and Jake Busey
The Frighteners is one of the strangest movies I am going to
write about on this countdown. And I know, considering I
already wrote about "Amazon Women on the Moon", that is already saying
something. But this quirky little horror/comedy is a movie
that was a huge
flop when it originally came out (1996), it starred an actor (Michael
Fox) who never starred in another movie again, and it is one of those
forgotten little films of the 90's that just sort of disappeared into
the ether after it was
released on video. I mean, let me put it this way for
I know a lot of movies. I am familiar with a -buttload- of
movies. I have a good memory for just about any
movie that was made in the 80's and 90's. Especially any
horror or comedy movie. But even -I- barely remember the
Frighteners. I had to rent it on Netflix a couple of weeks
ago just so I could remind myself what it was about.
I blame Mallory for this
First off, let me address the elephant in the room when it comes to
The Frighteners. Yes, this is a Michael J. Fox movie.
It is one of the rare Michael J. Fox movies. In
fact, this was the -last- Michael J. Fox movie. This was the
last movie Michael J. Fox made before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's
in the late
90's, at which point he decided that he didn't want to do
movies anymore, he only wanted to work on TV shows.
And it is a shame when you watch this movie now with that
in mind. Because the two things that jumped out at me when I
watched The Frighteners last week were the facts that Michael J. Fox was a
really good actor and he never really
got credit for it when he was in his prime.
I mean, this guy was not just some one trick pony
sitcom star from the 1980's. He -totally- could have made it
as a serious actor if he had really wanted to. The
Frighteners proves it. This
was the big breakout movie where the world would finally start
to take him seriously as an actor, and he was really good in it
But then, you know how it works. Shit happened.
He was diagnosed with
Parkinson's. So that was the end of his movie career, and he
ended it with a great performance in a great movie that nobody
I don't know about you, but I think that sucks.
Sorry Teen Wolf, you deserved better
Okay, so what is The Frighteners about? Well basically,
think Ghostbusters. Just take the premise of Ghostbusters,
and imagine if they made a horror movie out of it instead of a comedy.
Because yes, that is what this is. The Frighteners is a
Don't be fooled by the fact that it stars Marty McFly. Don't
be fooled by the fact that it was produced by Robert Zemeckis.
Or the fact that Danny Elfman did all the music.
a light hearted little family movie at all.
While The Frighteners is routinely labeled as a "horror/comedy", it is
much closer to the horror side of that equation than it is to the
Don't believe me? Well let me just point out that The
Gary Busey's son Jake Busy as a serial killer. And Jake Busey
one scary looking motherfucker.
The creepier Busey
Ghostbusters The Frighteners is the story of a
little asshole of a con artist by the name of Peter Venkman
Frank Bannister (Michael
did I just say that Michael J. Fox plays an asshole in this movie?
The beloved Michael J. Fox? He actually plays a
Well yes, actually I did. In fact, that is one of
amazing things that I can tell you about The Frighteners.
J. Fox doesn't
play some variant of Michael J. Fox, like he plays in pretty much
everything else he ever did in TV or movies. No, in The
Frighteners he actually
to be a bit of an asshole.
Frank Bannister saying asshole things
Bannister is what some people would refer to as "a medium."
He is a man who, thanks to a freak car accident he was
many years ago, now has the ability to see ghosts. He just
walks around all day, and everywhere he looks all around him are the
ghosts of people who have recently died. Most of whom, of
are frightened and confused because they are ghosts now, and they have
no idea why they died, or what they are supposed to do. Or
they are supposed to go.
Naturally, Frank is the only person in town who can see all of these
Nobody else can see them.
Nobody else has the gift that he does.
Frank interacting with some of his ghost buddies
naturally, because this is a Michael J. Fox movie, you would assume
that Frank would use this paranormal gift for good. Right?
I mean, you would
that Marty McFly would just walk around all day and help all
nice people who are
now freshly deceased. And that he would do his best to guide
them on their way into the afterlife. You
would assume that
nice guy Michael J. Fox's sole purpose in this movie is to perform lots
of do-goodery and to always be nice.
You would assume that, of course. Because we are talking
about Marty McFly.
You would assume that.
But that assumption would be wrong.
Frank running his ghost cleaning scam
Frank Bannister decides not to use his gifts for good, he decides to
use them for evil. He decides to set up a ghost cleaning
sets up a con where his ghost friends will come to a house and they
will "haunt" it for a while. And then, when the owners become
sufficiently terrified by the fact that they have a poltergeist
throwing shit around and ruining their lives, they will call in Frank
and they will pay his ridiculous fees. And then Frank becomes
rich, the house becomes "clean", and everyone involved in the game
winds up happy.
On paper, Frank could theoretically do this forever. It is
the perfect little con game.
Frank and his buddies working on their haunting scam
Now at this point, this is all well and good. On paper, this
could just be your typical ghost cleaning con artist movie.
At this point this would very much wind up as a
However, it is about to take a very dark turn.
This is where The Frighteners sort of lapses into being a horror movie.
The forehead numbers
day, Frank is running around, doing his little ghost cleaning scam, and
he sees a mysterious number pop up on one of his customers' foreheads.
It just randomly appears there, in glowing numerals, and he
doesn't know what it means.
And then, two days later, the guy who had the numbers on his dead
suddenly dies of a heart attack.
Frank encountering the newest ghost guy who just died
over the next few days, a few more people randomly get numbers on their
foreheads. Frank sees every one of them.
And then they, too, all die from a mysterious unexpected heart attack.
I'm not going to tell you who is putting the numbers there on their
heads, or what they signify, or why and how the people are dying.
But let me just say this.
LITTLE KIDS ARE GOING TO FREAK THE FUCK OUT IF YOU SHOW THEM THIS MOVIE.
That's all I will say. This isn't a family movie.
There are lots of big scary monsters flying around.
Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
And that's really all I am planning to tell you about The Frighteners.
is the story of Michael J. Fox playing the one asshole he ever played
in a movie. He is the guy who sees ghosts. And
while, he starts to see a little -too- many ghosts. And then
realizes that there is something really, really sinister going on in
town, and he doesn't know how (or if) he is going to stop it.
I should point out that this movie was directed by Peter Jackson, and
Peter Jackson made some really, really bizarre movies.
I said at the start of my review, The Frighteners is one of those
movies that, up until a week ago, I had almost no memory of whatsoever.
All I know is that I saw in the theater. And I know
came out in the summer of 1996, which is the summer that had like a
hundred different blockbusters, all coming out within a few weeks of
one another. And I remember that I liked it a lot.
was pretty much it as far as my memory of it went. Like I
it is one of those movies that was a fairly big deal for a couple of
weeks, and then everyone just sort of forgot about it. In
if Michael J. Fox hadn't been it, I doubt I would have
even remembered it at all.
But I did remember it.
Vaguely. So I decided to rent it from Netflix.
was surprised to see how fun it was, and how awesome the
effects were for its time.
My goodness, there are effects in
this movie (in particular involving the flying reaper) that were
extremely impressive and innovative for 1996. And they still
pretty impressive today.
If nothing else, the Frighteners should definitely have a reputation
for what a great special effects showcase it was.
Like this one
so that's it. The Frighteners. The last movie
Michael J. Fox. One of the earliest movies directed by Peter
Jackson. A big loud fun hodgepodge of a movie, featuring
hearts exploding, a reaper who likes to fly through the air and rip
peoples' heads off, and Jake Busey. I cannot say enough
about Jake Busey.
Seriously, why didn't Jake Busey play the bad guy in more movies?
No one has ever been creepier.
Frighteners won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you have never seen
it before (and I am guessing you haven't) you will probably get a kick
out of it. It's... uh... well it's unique. Like a
Peter Jackson movies, I can't say I have ever seen another movie quite
Especially when Jeffrey Combs shows up
And again, that reaper. The reaper is awesome.
In summary, it is a shame that Michael J. Fox never quite made it in
Hollywood as a serious film actor. And it is even more of a
that his last movie (the one that was supposed to be his big leap) is a
movie that nobody on Earth even seems to remember. I
-I- didn't even remember The Frighteners. And I remember
everything. Plus, I actually saw it
in the theater! But hey, if you have to go out with a bang,
least you can say there are very few movies that were as quirky of a
as this one.
So do Michael J. Fox a favor and watch his swan song at least once.
Just see it and, if nothing else, enjoy it for the special effects.
It is the least you can do for the guy.
Oh my god, Doc, this is heavy
favorite IMDB user reviews about The Frighteners:
Sleeper Hit! - 6
a budding Peter Jackson fan, but I'd never had any interest in this
movie because everyone told me it was terrible. So I come in on a movie
on TV that I've never seen before and I just love it. I ask, "What's
this movie?" "Oh, The Frighteners!" What? The terrible movie? Yeah,
well, all the people who told me that were a) lying, b) crazy, or c)
didn't know good movies when they saw them. I expected it to be
uselessly gory and sophomoric. It was surprisingly intelligent, by
turns humorous and terrifying, and featured unusually sharp
performances by people that don't usually give them (a.k.a. Michael J.
Fox). He in particular had a few really dark, emotional moments that
made me completely rethink him as an actor. Other standouts include Dee
Wallace-Stone, throwing her heart and soul into the character of
demented, possibly psychopathic Patricia, and Jeffrey Combs, who is
just downright freaky as a way unbalanced FBI agent. Overall I
definitely recommend this movie; it relishes in the term "fun."
The definition of an
overlooked film - 6 February 2000
don't know what it is with horror movies, and horror/comedies in
particular. Either they are huge, blockbuster hits (GHOSTBUSTERS,
SCREAM) or they are virtually ignored by theatergoers and critics
(everything except for GHOSTBUSTERS and SCREAM). Unfortunately THE
FRIGHTENERS falls into the last category, which is a shame because it's
a great, original film.
Others have described the plot in detail
here, so I won't go into it. Suffice it to say that Michael J. Fox
gives a terrific, believable performance here as the ghostbusting
con man who gets more than he bargained for. The supporting cast is a
hoot (especially the insane FBI agent). Peter Jackson, a man who has
proven he can even make a good movie on a camcorder, was given a decent
budget here and it really shows. The special effects are noteworthy and
are actually put to good use rather than being eye candy. While the
violence/gore factor in THE FRIGHTENERS is toned down in comparison to
Jackson's earlier films, the comedy is still spot-on. Jackson can do no
wrong it seems.
Even if you're not a total horror fan, there
should still be something here for you to latch on to and enjoy. Heck,
there's almost nothing missing from this movie--romance, comedy,
scares, action... it's all there. What's not to like? But don't take my
word for it, go rent it and see for yourself.
Bizarre but fun - 22
Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has the ability to see ghosts and is a
broken down psychic investigator. His wife died in a car crash and he
can't forget her. Also the town he lives in is marred by healthy people
falling dead of heart attacks! He meets Dr. Lucy Lynsley (Trini
Alvarado) and starts falling in love but then he discovers that the
sudden heart attacks are being caused by an evil spirit. There's more
to it but that should give you an idea of the plot.
supposed to be a hit. It was made on a big budget (u can tell), was
supposed to be rated PG-13 and was released as a big summer movie in
1996. BUT the MPAA stupidly refused to give it a PG-13 (purportedly the
ghosts looked too real) and the R rating hurt. Also it came out the
same time "Independence Day" came out. "ID" was inexplicably a massive
hit and this bombed. Too bad. This is a good movie.
strange movie--the plot itself is VERY odd but it moves along briskly
and director Peter Jackson always has things moving around. The opening
sequence alone grabs you. The special effects are superb--even by
today's standards. I just sat there stunned by some of them--the "Soul
Collector" especially knocked me out! The acting is good too. I never
really liked Fox too much but I gotta admit he's pretty good here.
Alvarado matches him and the supporting cast really has fun in their
roles. Jeffrey Combs especially chews the scenery. It does get a little
overly convoluted at the end and goes on a bit too long but I still
loved it. It's got mystery, horror, romance, some very black comedy--a
little bit of everything. Not for all tastes but if you like strange
horror comedies pick this one up! Recommended. An 8 all the way.
The best Horror Comedy
movie ever - 16 September 2013
I remember my older brother showing me this movie when it first came
out. I was younger and had a very vivid imagination so it scared the
hell out of me. Today I went back and re-watched this movie I have not
seen since then and while my imagination is still vivid, I respect the
movie now because of it.
The movie starts off I would say 80/20 Comedy/Horror. You get to see
the shenanigans that MJF and his two ghost cohorts pull off. Watching
the transformation of his character as he slowly realizes that he's up
against more then he thought.
The story develops unbelievably well. The characters (living and dead)
are well thought out and brought to life, with such great enthusiasm
it's amazing. The story evolves slowly and dramatically, each minute
bringing more and more to the story.
The acting is amazing. MJF, awesome. Playing both the con artist, and
then the hero. Jake Busey pulls of crazy well, but then again he is his
The CGI I think is pretty awesome for the time. The grim reaper shots,
still give me the creeps.
Over all I have a love for this movie that makes me want to keep
watching it again and again.
"Death ain't no way to
make a living." - 15 January 2003
Frighteners is a textbook example of how to do a horror/comedy. Peter
Jackson once again proves he can handle the genre masterfully. With
Psychic Investigator Frank Bannister, Michael J. Fox adds another great
character to his pantheon of heroes. The rest of the cast is top notch
as well. Horror icon Dee Wallace Stone is great in this. John Astin is
great in this. R. Lee Ermey is great in this. Even Jake Busey is great
in this. Everyone is great in this. The actors and actresses do a
wonderful job of handling the humor and the scares. But the actor that
really shines here is genre veteran Jeffrey Combs. His portrayal of
F.B.I. Special Agent Milton Dammers is one of his most memorable in
long career of genre roles. Only the best went into this movie: Rick
Baker was brought in to handle some of the visual effects and Danny
Elfman composed the score. I don't know that it's my favorite, but this
may be Jackson's best horror offering thus far in his career. That's a
bold statement considering he's no stranger to horror.
Got meself a score of 9!!
- 11 February 2004
Why the hell Michael J Fox would say that he regrets making this movie
is beyond me! What was he thinking? This is probably up there with some
of the best work he has done.
Come to think of it, this is some of the best work that the entire cast
has done. Just look at Jefferey Combs.... my god, what a character! And
Jake Busey.... who else could have pulled it off like he did??
This movie (along with such others as House on Haunted Hill, Ghost
Ship, Thir13n Ghosts, Bones etc etc) could have easily been another
chapter in the fabulous 'Tales from the Crypt' franchise. I wish it
was! It has all of the characteristics..... obviously as it was
produced by Zemekis.
Peter Jackson really shines with The Frighteners. It was his first
glossy Hollywood-esque foray into the US Market and he pulled it off
superbly. It's just such a shame that it flopped at the box office.
There is no abundance of gore in this movie... but it is still one hell
of a nasty little pleasure. Do yourself a massive favour it you want a
movie that's fun, spooky and just plain awsome,.... see The Frighteners!
at the IMDB
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