The Frighteners started as a concept for an episode of the 1990’s HBO series Tales From the Crypt. Series executive producer Robert Zemeckis was so impressed with Peter Jackson’s scenario that he urged the director to further explore the details and turn the short into a feature length film. So Jackson, one film away from his Lord of the Rings undertaking, and co-writer Fran Walsh fleshed out their story and the resulting product hit screens during July of 1996.
In the constantly overcast city of Fairwater a monstrous evil is about to be awaken, an evil so powerful that it can reach beyond the grave. For Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) death is a great way to make a living: ridding haunted houses of their unwelcome “guests.” But he’s in business running a scam with the very ghosts he is there to evict. It’s the perfect scam…until Frank finds himself at the center of a dark mystery. A diabolical spirit (Jake Busey) is on a murderous rampage, and the whole town thinks Frank is behind it.
The supporting cast of The Frighteners are far more interesting than Michael J. Fox’s character and storyline. The trio of ghost Bannister works with are not only marvels of CGI (for the era) but are inventive and provide some comic relief. The same can be said of Paul Dobson who plays a recently deceased arrogant fitness obsessed yuppie. But it’s Jeffery Combs who gives the film it’s most memorable performance and some edginess. He is so unpredictable and his line delivery is so unique that you can’t take your eyes off of him. Too bad the script doesn’t give him much to do, and is bogged down by a repetitive last act that grows increasingly violent, and boring.
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Dee Wallace Stone, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey