Tuesday, 2 March 2010

No.15 : The Frighteners

Michael J Fox stars and Peter Jackson directs in this 1996 smash that had previously been unseen by myself. I’m never a big fan of paranormal goings on and that opinion hasn’t really shifted after seeing this spook fest.

Fox plays Frank Bannister who makes his living as a ghost hunter. We are sceptical at first as he touts for business at a funeral but as soon convinced when a fully fledged poltergeist attack is cleared up by our man. Things aren’t as they seem however - the ghosts are real but they are in Frank’s employ.

His shady tactics are brought into sharp focus however when a spate of heart attack deaths blight the small community. We get a lot of exposition about a serial killer, played by Jake Busey , who was put to death in the electric chair after trying to outdo the scores of his hero killers from the past and when Fox starts to see numbers appear on the foreheads of victims to be he thinks the killer may be back from the dead with his moll a willing accessory.

Meanwhile the Feds sent their strangest agent to try and solve the case and it’s soon clear that he has Fox in his sights. With the help of a pretty widow doctor, Fox visits the afterlife himself in an attempt to solve the mystery and to put an end to the killings.

This is an OK film but I thought it rambled on an awful long times with too many plot strands floating around like so many disembodied spirits. It looks like they had enough story for an hour and then had to try and flesh it out with a lot of padding and unnecessary set pieces.

The concept was OK and it was a kind of ‘Ghost’ / ‘Shocker’ hybrid but overall it was uneven with more CGI that you could shake a virtual stick at. The effects were obviously state of the art for the time but now they look really fake and intrusive. Every time some one leaves a room the walls all bulge with faces and after a while it gets a bit dull and ultimately when all is revealed it makes no sense at all.

Fox does his usual everyman routine and although he’s always likeable I certainly wasn’t buying his widower’s anguish and tortured soul. His undead henchmen were a better bet and it was good to see the drill sergeant out of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ doing his thing once again.

Peter Jackson tries to liven things up with a lot of cuts and inventive angles but fails to resurrect the script into something worth watching. When the long final showdown was halfway through I didn’t really care what the outcome was or even if I fully understood what was going on - why did Busey bother with the big sheet in the first place when it was notoriety he was after?

I think the main problem is that the film flits between horror and comedy, and while that can work in films like ‘The Evil Dead’, it fails here as you’re never sure what to make of what’s happening on screen. It’s a competent enough film but the stretched script, ropey CGI and lack of bite mean that this is one that’s not worth resurrecting from the video shop vaults.

THE Tag Line : Low Spirits Scare Off Viewers 61%

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