Hidey-ho neighborinos! Yeah, I know the Pup and I have been missing for *pauses to check calender* HOLY SHIT! It’s been over a month. Damn, real life is always trying to take away me and Pup’s fun. 😦 But that’s okay with a swift kick in our ass from our beloved blog mistress (okay, I know it was a reminder, but a kick is more dramatic) we sat down and dusted off one of our favorite cross-genre movies. *glares at the Pup* Don’t look at me like that. I said CROSS-GENRE not CROSS-DRESSER. No worries, Pup, your secret is safe with me. I think you look lovely in that glittery purple feather boa…damn…did I say that aloud? I did…didn’t I?
Okay, let’s all forget that conversation happened. Besides we’re here for the MOVIE REVIEW!! *tosses confetti*
The Frighteners (1996)
CAST: Michael J. Fox, Trina Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Dee Wallace Stone, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey, and Chi McBride
Ghostbusters was probably the first mainstream movie to mix comedy and the paranormal. Yeah, sure we had the Abbot and Costello black & white flicks of the 40’s involving the Mummy, Dracula, and even Frankenstein’s monster, but off the top of my head I can’t quite think of another movie that did it quite the same way that Ghostbusters did it. All this talk of Ghostbusters probably has you thinking you read the title of this post wrong—well, you didn’t folks.
Most days I have a tendency to babble, this post is indicative of how that usually goes. Have you ever had the distinct feeling that you’re going senile? Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, I decided to review a movie this time that is funny, weird, and has scares enough to make even me jump.
Long ago and far away in the verdant land of New Zealand there was a curly-haired jolly fellow known as Peter Jackson. Although, we know him quite well now for his epic trip through the land of Hobbits, in 1996 Mr. Jackson was just beginning to capture the world’s attention. In this case, he caught the attention of the legendary Robert Zemeckis with a story that rides a fine line between comedy and horror.
Michael J. Fox (Spin City, Back to the Future) plays industrious con-man Frank Bannister, psychic investigator and ghost buster for hire in the quaint seaside town of Fairwater. There’s one thing though that no one knows about Frank. His con cleansing houses of the ghosts—the ghosts actually work for him. Contrary to what the townspeople believe, Frank is an honest to God psychic that can see and communicate with the spirits of the dead. His cohorts in crime are Cyrus (Chi McBride, Human Target; Pushing Daisies) a militant African-American who died in the 1970’s with a taste for cigars; Stuart (Jim Fyfe, The X-Files; The Lone Gunmen) a geek from the 1950’s and The Judge (John Astin, The Addams Family; Brisco County, Jr.) a 19th century gunman followed in death by his beloved bloodhound.
Bannister lives along with his ghostly cohorts in what we soon learn was to be his dream house. The house though now sets unfinished, draped in plastic sheeting on the side of a lonely hill overlooking the town. There is more to Frank Bannister and the town of Fairwater than meets the eye.
It seems the town of Fairwater has an epidemic on their hands, a series of deaths with no scientific explanation. Healthy young people dropping dead from what appears to be heart attacks. There’s only one problem, an unseen force, not clogged arteries, crushed their hearts. Rattled by the series of deaths Frank and his ragtag team of ghosts play on the town’s grief earning him a place on the local paper’s target list.
During one of his ghost busting gigs, Frank meets Dr. Lucy Lynsky who works at the local clinic. Her husband Ray is snide self-centered pain who doesn’t believe a thing that Frank says or does. While wrapping up the job Frank sees a fiery number carved in Ray’s forehead that then fades away. At first, he believes it’s a prank created by one of his ghost buddies. Soon we learn why the number affects Frank the way it does. Three years before Frank was a successful architect, married, and a bit of a self-centered ass when he and his wife are in an accident, his wife dies, and he walks away with no memory of what happened and the sudden ability to communicate with the dead. A good portion of the town believes he killed his wife because her body when discovered yards away from the car had the number 13 engraved in her forehead.
After Lucy’s husband is the next to die, she and Frank find themselves caught up in a terrifying game of cat and mouse with the evil entity responsible for the deaths in Fairwater. Standing in their way are the local police and a nutty FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs, The 4400; The House on Haunted Hill) who specializes in paranormal crimes (think Fox Mulder on crack with a huge helping of Renfield). Not only that, but the deaths seem to have a link to a hospital murder spree from the past involving the hospital administrators daughter (Dee Wallace-Stone). What they uncover is a plot that comes straight from the grave and Frank Barrister is the only one that can stop it.
As I’ve learned from watching Peter Jackson’s movies, the man is huge on visuals. Now, nearly fifteen years later, the special effects appear dated, but in 1996, they were state of the art. Jackson is not afraid of treading that line that makes the movie watcher nervous—the crossover of genres. In Hollywood where everything is forced to bagged, tagged, and categorized (thank you, again, Mulder) Jackson has the unerring ability to mix comedy, drama, and horror in a perfect balance that leaves the watcher feeling satisfied in the end. For those of you who are fans of the CW series Supernatural I can tell you that Jackson’s work on this movie is without a doubt on Eric Kripke’s list of inspirations.
Michael J. Fox puts in an intense turn as Frank Bannister, a man who believes he has nothing to live for until he’s forced to face the past he’s been running from. He has an edge that we rarely saw in his earlier rolls and yet he can still make you laugh in the middle of a darkness that permeates The Frighteners. The supporting cast is brilliant ranging from the psychotic to the hilarious and everything in between.
Looking for a fun movie with a dark, edge to it for the upcoming holiday weekend I suggest you get your hands on a copy of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups
5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss
4 Fox Pups – Excellent
3 Fox Pups – Good
2 Fox Pups – Passable
1 Fox Pups – Skip It