aka Robert Zemeckis Presents – The Frighteners
110 min., 1996
Written by Fran Walsh/Peter Jackson
Directed by Peter Jackson
My rating: ★★★★
A movie more about effects than substance.
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We first meet Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) at a funeral passing out business cards. They push him away and he gets into his car. As he is driving (pretty badly) away he doesn’t notice a truck and he swerves off the road onto Ray (Peter Dobson) and Lucy (Trini Alvarado) Lynskey’s lawn. After a confrontation, later that night Ray and Lucy’s house starts to act haunted. Frank shows up and “cleans” the house. We then learn that Frank can talk and interact with ghosts and he has a scheme where he sends his friends Cyrus (Chi McBride), Stuart (Jim Fyfe), and the Judge (John Astin) to a house, then he comes in and cleans up the house and collects a fee. His job isn’t going all that well and it starts to get even worse when he sees that some people are having numbers appear on their forehead and a little later they die. Who do you think is suspect number one? Yep, that’s right, Frank.
This is a movie that shows that Michael J. Fox can actually act and that he’s not just a one trick pony. He’s good at playing the funny roles, but this actually shows that he has range. The interrogation scene is a great scene that really allowed him to show his sad and uncaring side. His eyes tell the whole story about his sadness and that he (at that point) really just doesn’t care what happens next. But there’s also the hint of sadness that there is nothing that he can do to help, just some great acting. Jeffrey Combs who plays Agent Milton, is the other actor that is just awesome. His role in the movie is minor compared to the rest and he comes in very late, but man does he steal every scene that he’s in. The jumpy and weasely Milton could be hard for some to pull off, but Mr. Combs has absolutely to problem with the role and takes the character from minor to focal point. Jake Busey and Dee Wallace both turn in great performances as the psycho couple, but sometimes they just take both characters too far that it almost gets annoying.
Now this is, without question, an effects movie. Then again pretty much all of Peter Jackson’s movies, all the way back to Bad Taste, are effects movies. Other movies use effects to help heighten it, but Peter Jackson takes the effects and makes them the main focus of a movie. The plot is pretty good, but it seems that the plot is left in the destructive wake of the giant semi-truck that is the special effects. Are they good effects? Yes, without question the effects are great, with few showing any real wear and tear, but effects aren’t the only things about a movie. As good as the effects are, there is so much focus on them that it almost hurts the movie more than helps it. A lot of times you’re so pulled in by the effects and thinking how cool they look, that the good performances are over shadowed.
As a whole the movie is actually great. Acting is top notch, effects are still beautiful and horrifying, and the story is pretty good. But again, there is too much emphasis on the effects and it really does hurt the great performances. Now I’m not saying to not watch this, but just be prepared for an effects heavy movie. It’s fun and Peter Jackson’s movies are always worth a good watch.Have You Read...?