Like most horror fans, I remember Peter Jackson way before his Lord of the Rings fame-dom. We knew him back when in his days of being the chubby writer/ director of Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, Dead Alive and my most personal favorite Heavenly Creatures.
Right before Jackson took on LOTR, he made one last underappreciated movie known as The Frighteners.
Frank Bannister can see dead people. After being in a car accident, which killed his wife, Frank developed psychic powers. Frank’s ability to communicate with the dead is used for his own financial gain. He befriended three ghosts to help him stir up trouble in the sleepy town of Fairweather. The ghosts do the typical ghostly activities of making things float, banging the toilet seat and making unlikely objects move on their own. Frank swoops in and takes care of the problem, for a fee, of course. He makes a living running these exorcism scams on people just to raise enough money to finish the house he was making for him and his beloved wife.
Frank gets over his head when the people of Fairweather are dying of an apparent heart attack. Right before they die he sees a number carved into their forehead. Mysteriously enough, the same thing happened to his wife at the scene of the car accident. Frank realizes that a figure, that is dressed like Death himself, is killing off people and keeping score. It’s up to Frank to find out the evil spirit behind the cloak and scythe before more people die and he’s left to take the fall.
I remember when I went to see this in theaters I thought I was going to walk into a goofy little ghost comedy. Little did I know, this would end up being an imaginative supernatural movie. It does have its comedy elements but overall I think the tone was mainly darkly and grim (no pun intended).
As much as I love the story, the cast heighten the greatness of this movie. First of all, Michael J. Fox can do no wrong. Ok I haven’t seen everything he’s ever been in ever but I’m standing by this statement damnit! When you hear that The Fox is doing a movie where he’s a Ghostbuster, you can’t help but jump on that shit. Dee Wallace Stone already established herself in the horror genre. With movies like Cujo, The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes, Critters and other horror films under her belt, her role as the disturbed and frail Patricia suited Dee well. Then you have Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey…enough said. And my favorite character out of this whole movie, Special Agent Milton Dammers performed by Jeffrey Combs. Combs is insanely incredible in every role he takes on.
It saddens me that The Frighteners didn’t get as much love or recognition as it deserved; but I hope now that Peter Jackson’s newfound fans look back to his old work and they can appreciate this movie.
I hate to think that the horror genre will completely lose Jackson to Hollywood’s world of fancy suits, bottomless champagne and limousine blowjobs. I want to believe that he’ll be back again one day. And until then, I wait.