Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Frighteners (1996)

Take elements from 'Beetlejuice' and 'Ghostbusters' and you have this quirky, light yet also dark, soft comedy horror from the man who gave us 'LOTR's'. You could almost say its a sequel of sorts to 'Beetlejuice', or it could have been, a very familiar ghost story which isn't really for kids, even though it might look like it. Danny Elfman does the score here I might add.

The story sees a man who can see and communicate with spirits of the dead (because he had a nasty near death experience that changed his outward perspective on life, and he lost his wife at the same time). The amusing part is he uses this special skill to make money by conning people with a phony haunting routine, a business deal he has with a few ghosts that help him pull off the stunts.

At the same time a bad spirit manages to come back and start/continue his hobby of killing people. As 'Frank' is the only person here that can communicate with the dead its up to him and his ghostly buddies to stop this evil ghost.

One of those films that did OK upon release but not great, has since become a bit of a cult. I saw this at the cinema when it first came out and I must admit to slightly enjoying it but not massively. The effects, even back then, looked pretty ropey if you ask me, some really dodgy CGI going on. By today's standards it looks even worse, this is a shame as it kinda lets the film down for me, both of the older films mentioned earlier look way better.

Its a fun fanciful film for sure and what I liked best was the fact it didn't shy away from the odd moment of adult humour or adult visuals. One minute the film is quaint and amusing like a kids cartoon, the next you can see someone getting their head shot off with a shotgun! albeit very quickly with no gore. The ghosts are the best thing about the film naturally, I loved how Jake Busey's ghost character has this sadistic, barbarous almost masochistic personality, along with his living compadre. Really gives the film a nice evil twist instead of going down the more safe route.

The other ghosts tended to be slightly corny really, the two that help Fox are pretty lame and cliched. John Astin's ghost character is also heavily cliched but looks cool, whilst Jackson even thought to include a ghost version of 'Gunnery Sergeant Hartman' from 'Full Metal Jacket', well I can't say that for sure but the part is played by Ermey so you decide. I thought the spook angle could of been much better, much more bizarre or varied, its too...standard.

Its definitely a solid ghosthunting film which is helped by the likeable Michael J Fox, but I wonder if he was the best choice for this role. The best character for me was played by Combs, his nervous, twitchy insane undercover cop is fun to watch, looks a bit like Jim Carrey and also has some nice dark moments.
Along with the films tone, the plain poster and rather meaningless film title you can see why it was hard to sell originally. Changing gears too often and too quickly leaves you pondering what the film really wants to be, but despite that I like a good zany spectral comedy so this film sits well with me. It may sound corny but put simply, if you liked 'Beetlejuice' you will probably like this.