Friday, October 17, 2014

1996 - THE FRIGHTENERS, a cult director goes mainstream

5 years before Peter Jackson started releasing The Lord of the Rings films, he made a jump into big time Hollywood studio film making with this film The Frighteners.  At this point in his career Jackson was a cult horror film director who had gained some respectability with Heavenly Creatures. Robert Zemeckis and Universal Studios decided to go ahead with one of his original screenplays about a psychic detective and his ghost associates who confront a serial killer ghost.

The Frighteners was intended as a mix of very black comedy and horror.  There is a heavy influence of Ghostbusters in this film.  But the comedy horror mix was not as well executed as that film.  Jackson's low budget horror roots are evident throughout the film.  

What the film has going for it is a decent cast particularly Michael J. Fox as the sort of bogus psychic detective.  Fox was always a very sharp performer particularly when it came to comedy and in The Frighteners he needs all the good will he can generate because this film has some extremely nasty stuff in it.

The Frighteners marks the beginning of Peter Jackson's very heavy reliance on computer generated visual effects which was to reach it's nadir in The Lord of the Rings series.  Today it seems that Jackson can't make a film unless he smothers it with lots of special effects.

110 minutes.

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