The Frighteners review by The Grim Ringler

The Frighteners-Laserdisc Special Edition

I was watching a movie with some friends last night and for some reason my eyes wandered their way from the television screen to my laserdisc collection, which has never been as large as I would have liked. My eyes came to rest on my Frighteners boxset and I realized I should probably review it since 1. it isnt available in any other form and 2. it is bound to be on its way to DVD pretty soon. How could it not be? Peter Jackson, after the success of his Lord of the Rings adaptations can pretty much write his own ticket. Sure, his earlier films like Bad Taste,Meet the Feebles, or Dead Alive/Brain Dead will never reach a mainstream audience, but Frighteners was a fun little ghost story with a once-upon-a-star in it and it was released on laserdisc in an incredible version so I am sure it will see the light of day. It has just taken a LOT of time. Which us laserdisc nerds love. We love having something the rest of you cant get. A friend of mine just sold his set on Ebay for something like one hundred and fifty-five dollars. Wow! For a movie that kinda bombed at the box office, that aint half bad. So here you have it kids, my review of what is one the Holy Grails of laserdisc collection the extended, super-special edition of Peter Jacksons The Frighteners. And remember, for now, I still have it and you dont. HA!

In The Frighteners Michael J. Fox plays a pseudo-paranormal investigator, staking out funerals for clients and if that doesnt work, creating his own through a bit of merry mischief. You see, Frank Bannister has a gift, though he sees it as a curse, and has had this gift since the horrible car accident he and his wife were in that took her life. Since that accident Frank has been able to see ghosts, talk to them, and even interact with them. So Frank has learned to use this gift to his own advantage and has recruited three ghosts to serve as his own personal haunting squad. He has this squad go out, find a client, scare them, then Frank will swoop in to save the day and make a LOT of cash. Perfect. Perfect that is until the deaths in the local town in which he is living begin to mount and the local press, looking for clues about the deaths, ferrets out Frank and his charlatan act and end up destroying his business. In losing his business though Frank does gain one last client, the wife of a man that Frank can see suddenly see since he has died, and that wants to contact her husband to find out what he did with her savings. In taking the case though Frank stumbles upon the real cause of death for this womans husband and all the other people in the town that have died in recent years, and learning this, knows he is the only one that can stop this force hiding in the guise of the grim reaper. But the more he learns about this reaper, and the closer to its identity he comes, the closer to the truth of his own wifes death he gets, a truth he has been avoiding since it happened. And in finding the truth about his wifes death and the deaths of Frank will have to face the fact of his own death and what his own life means.

This is sadly, one of those really fun, really neat movies that just never got the attention it deserved. Jackson has done, with Frighteners what many, many filmmakers have never been able to do, and thats mix horror and comedy, and mix it well. The magic of the film is in the brilliant casting, from Fox on down, all of them jell well and make the film more than a failed attempt at slapstick. The humor is very prominent but comes through in the dialogue and acting and doesnt focus itself on silly sight gags (though there are some). And in this extended version which is longer by about twelve minutes you get a better feel for what makes up the darker characters in the movie and what they are like. And never in the film did I feel like he was using digital effects just to use them to cover up for what was missing in the story. And it really is an ideal movie to watch with friends, one where it has its scares, but it has just as many laughs and really keeps you riveted to the action.

What makes this boxset so sought after, aside from the longer cut of the film, is the EXTENSIVE documentary footage. The movie itself has a commentary from Jackson, true, but it also has a brilliant documentary that is at least four hours long (!!!!!) which documents the film from the very beginning to the end. You even get a glimpse at the early computer programs they were working on for the LOTR movies. And none of the extra footage, documentary, deleted scenes, or bloopers feels as if its a waste of space or time. It all tells you something new, shows you something new. Jackson is a man that loves and appreciates film (if you doubt that you need to track down his brilliant satire Forgotten Silver, which gets a 9 in my book) and wants the fans out there to get every last drop of information than can from his movies. Jackson is sort of a mortal George Lucas. He listens to his fans, and he is as much of a geek as they are, and never tries to be anything more than that.

There is a very good reason this film is so sought after on in its special edition form, and yes, it lives up to the hype, and then some. The movie itself is a wonderfully macabre comedy and shows the kind of director Jackson was capable of becoming, and in fact did become, and offers a lot more fun than its box-office receipts would let you believe. And as for the documentary, this is easily one of the greatest film docs out there, standing alongside the Jaws laserdisc doc, and the LOTR documentary. Its engaging, engrossing, and never repeats itself. This is a rarity folks in that it lives up to, and exceeds the hype.

Movie - 8

Extras - 10


8 out of 10 Jackasses

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