The Frighteners (1996)
February 25, 2022 7:07 PM - Subscribe

Once an architect, Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) now passes himself off as an exorcist of evil spirits. To bolster his facade, he claims his "special" gift is the result of a car accident that killed his wife. But what he does not count on is more people dying in the small town where he lives. As he tries to piece together the supernatural mystery of these killings, he falls in love with the wife of one of the victims and deals with a crazy FBI agent.

Currently for digital rental in the US via Google and Amazon.
posted by DirtyOldTown (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
My friends and I got our movie titles mixed up at the 9-plex and instead of seeing Scream we ended up seeing this movie. We hadn't even seen any marketing for it, somehow, so we didn't recognize what movie it was. That made it weird for the first 10 minutes as we kept giving each other confused glances and wondering where Drew Barrymore was.

It's great. An underrated MJF classic. Actually way more my vibe than Scream was anyway.

Jake Busey's 1950s pompadoured psychopath is chilling in how much fun he's having. I thought the twist with Patricia was well executed. There are a bunch of good one-off ghosts, like the cemetery drill sergeant played by R. Lee Ermey. And Jeffrey Combs is creepy and cringe as he chews all the scenery.

I has a good balance of humor and horror. The blush of the innocence of the 90s makes it practically a rom-com, despite the R rating.

I remember a few childish jokes, but I'll forgive John Astin just about anything.

Also, Trini Alvarado is not Andie MacDowell, even though my brain kept trying to make her be.
posted by Horkus at 10:31 PM on February 25 [6 favorites]


"Andie MacDowell and Bebe Neuwirth had a daughter. It's a long story, don't worry about it."
posted by bartleby at 12:21 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Jake Busey's 1950s pompadoured psychopath is chilling in how much fun he's having.

I love his read of “I guess that makes you…” [reveals big gun] “… number one!” Such a chilling, premeditated evil that you look for in a movie antagonist.
posted by Servo5678 at 1:13 AM on February 26


It is very unsettling watching this film because - to a local - it was so obviously filmed in Wellington, New Zealand. Does anyone buy this as Midwestern US?

And it's also a strange transitional film between Peter Jackson's early splatter comedies (Bad Taste and Braindead) and his later mainstream Hollywood successes.
posted by Paragon at 2:01 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


We hadn't even seen any marketing for it, somehow, so we didn't recognize what movie it was.

I don't think anyone saw any marketing for it. I mean, look at that poster. Does it give any hint of the comedy aspect of this horror/comedy movie? Or that it's starring Michael J. Fox, still at the top of his 90's rom-com leading-man prowess doing something different. I can imagine that the marketing people found themselves at a loss on how to promote such a genre mash-up, but my memory is that the studio just had no idea what to do with what they were given, assumed it would flop, and spent as little time/money promoting it as they could.

I haven't watched this one in years, but, I loved it. Such a great mix of horror, humor, and grief. I remember finding ghost-Ray's second death particularly poignant, that his final redemptive act (after being such a douchebag of a boyfriend) goes unwitnessed by Frank or Lucy.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:28 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


It is very unsettling watching this film because - to a local - it was so obviously filmed in Wellington, New Zealand. Does anyone buy this as Midwestern US?

I saw it only once, when it first came out. I don’t recall any particular impression of the location, but I had never been to New Zealand at that point. A lot of the US Midwest had a sort of no-placeness to it, so location was sort of secondary. And on top of that, I was living in Toronto, which has doubled for half the cities on Earth, it seems.

I do know that it was the first Peter Jackson movie I saw and I think the only one before Fellowship of the Ring (I somehow had never seen Heavenly Creatures until much later). I recall seeing the trailer for FotR, recognizing the name and thinking what a gamble it was putting a huge sprawling story (and well-known property) in the hands of a guy who had done a decent horror comedy a couple of years earlier. Why, it’s like having Sam Raimi make a Spider-Man movie!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:13 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


It's not quite as ludicrous as pretending to be in the Midwest. The license plates are all California and it shows a coast, so I think they are presenting it as northern California.

Still instantly recognizable as New Zealand, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:58 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Jeffrey Combs fans: I dunno, Jeff, I don't think that you can outdo Herbert West.

Jeffrey Combs: [cracks knuckles] my body is a roadmap of pain
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:19 PM on February 26 [10 favorites]


Also, Trini Alvarado is not Andie MacDowell, even though my brain kept trying to make her be.

So. much. this. (I re-watched this yesterday, based on this thread)

One thing I noted was that Lucy (Trini) was given quite a bit of her own direct agency to both plan and save-the-day, it wasn't ALL up-to MJF, that was refreshing for both it's time - and now.
posted by rozcakj at 5:56 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Trini's reaction to "I gotta have an out of body experience, and I gotta have it right now." is a great bit of "oh god tell me he isn't going to" acting.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:59 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey Combs: [cracks knuckles] my body is a roadmap of pain

Honestly one of my favorite Combs lines of all time, alongside From Beyond's "Bit off.. his head... like a GINGERBREAD MAN"
posted by FatherDagon at 1:48 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


The license plates are all California and it shows a coast, so I think they are presenting it as northern California.

Ah, thank you, Northern California makes a lot more sense. I was going on the Wikipedia article which says Jackson committed to making it look like the Midwest.
posted by Paragon at 3:44 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


It never really nails the balance in tone. Starting off as a Ghostbusters-style comedy but clumsily lurching into horror. Fox, Alvarado and Combs are great. Everyone else? Not so much.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 4:23 PM on March 8


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