Peter Jackson’s the Frighteners is a 1996 comedy/horror film starring Michael J. Fox. It follows the story of a physic investigator/ deactivate who is in league with the very sprits he is supposed to be exorcising. For the first half hour, the film is mostly comedy, with good work by Chi McBride as Cyrus, the ghost of a black man from the 70’s, complete with a huge afro. The other ghosts are less noteworthy and merely amusing, such as R. Lee Ermey as a ghostly version of his character from Full Metal Jacket. T…e movie becomes more of a thriller after Bannister spots a Reaper-like figure killing people that are marked with numbers on their foreheads. The rest of the movie involves Frank’s efforts to stop these mysterious murders.
The special effects by Richard Taylor and WETA are excellent; a clear sign of talent that definitely was a proving ground for Lord of the Rings. This film is no exception, with characters such as Wallpaperman or Portraitman. Rick Baker’s makeup work on the Judge was exceptional. Baker has won Oscars for makeup from the Nutty Professor, Harry and the Hendersons, and Men in Black. The Grim Reaper figure will definitely be recognizable to fans of Lords of the Rings as the inspiration for LOTR is clear and defined.
I am near to recommending this movie but it is missing something that prevents it, a je ne sais quoi. The environments and characters are interesting, but the story drags a bit in the end. Fans of Peter Jackson are probably the best audience to see his evolution as a filmmaker. The rest of you probably won’t find much to enjoy here.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, The Frighteners has the type of picture that really could’ve used a re-mastered print instead of the similar print found on the DVD.
Detail was somewhat lacking here as I expected something more impressive here, especially considering the lighter tones in the film. With all the ghostly images, the detail was disappointing and lacked a real solid picture. Color usage, thankfully, was solid and impressive with deep darks and solid blues. As I mentioned above, a re-mastered print would have helped this one as the film showed the unique visual style Jackson had.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, The Frighteners has a fairly disappointing audio track.
Dialogue was simple and easy to understand for the most part, but an issue arrived where whenever there was a larger amount of surround usage or action, dialogue would find itself lost in the mix of things. This made the provided subtitles necessary if the viewer wanted to understand the story. The surround usage was acceptable here, but the annoyance of this dialogue problem really knocked this one down for me.
- Documentary: The extras are certainly exhaustive, a 4 and a half hour documentary originally created for the 1998 laserdisc release that covers all aspects of the production. Peter Jackson’s comments on the Frighteners’ R-rating were most amusing. “You can’t have so many shotgun blasts through a door, that’s R-Rated.” “Oh, jeez, we better stop showing some many blasts, or this laserdisc is going to be NC-17.” A funny and restrained look at the odd workings of the MPAA or as Danny Elfman puts it “ an organization with double and triple standards.”
- Trailer: Here the film’s Theatrical Trailer is shown.
- Audio Commentary with director Peter Jackson: Now this was quite the surprise for me. I expected a bit of repetitiveness from Jackson, but his comments were new and interesting. Instead Jackson came off as a confident man who certainly knows his craft and knows how to entertain his audiences.
I suppose because I saw Jackson’s famous trilogy first, I came into The Frighteners with quite a high level of expectation. But the sub-par video, problematic audio and somewhat odd film, really hurt this overall package for me. Fans will definitely eat this up, especially with the interesting documentary, but I suppose this is best left as a rental.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with director Peter Jackson