What do you get when Peter Jackson and Michael J. Fox team up for a ghost film? An exciting, over-the-top, ethereal adventure involving stellar horror makeup, cutting-edge (for its time) CGI, zany exorcism scams, and Death itself. 1996's The Frighteners wraps all these elements up into a beautifully spooky buffet for VFX junkies and horror fanatics.
Whimsically amusing and cryptically chilling, The Frighteners is one of the best horror films to come out of the '90s. Even though the box office didn't give it much appreciation at the time, it set the stage for Jackson to bring the fantastical world of The Lord of The Rings to the screen.
It Goes From Zero To 60 Almost Immediately And Never Slows Down
The Frighteners doesn't waste time pretending to be anything but a ghastly joyride. It opens up with an epic scene involving deadly ghosts and gunslinging grannies, and the scenes don't stop being extra after this. Protagonist Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) acting as the local traffic menace and scheming house-call exorcist is just the beginning.
The introduction of chaotic characters - ranging from trigger-happy FBI agents to Jake Busey's sociopathic ghost persona - helps the film to seize every opportunity to go over-the-top with both its plot and visual effects.
Ghost Lore Reaches New Heights Of Originality In The Film
The quippy and quirky Bannister employs ghosts to help him run his phony exorcist business. It becomes less of a cash-grab gimmick when he discovers that a crazed, dangerous ghost is making its way through town. Not only is this ghost striking down the city's local citizens, it's also dispatching any spirit that stands in its way.
Although a bit on the unfortunate side for ethereal beings, this notion of ghosts being able to end other ghosts' lives was a new twist for beyond-the-grave lore. You know how 28 Days Later introduced fast zombies? It's kinda like that.
The Personification Of Death Was Unique And Trailblazing At The Time
The Grim Reaper that flys in to take the lives of the townspeople isn't just a flying sack of bones, it's a visual effects marvel. Instead of clinging to the old mechanics of puppeteering the being into existence by using a large doll and a green screen, they scrapped the thought of making it in real life and created it completely with CGI.
By tricking a computer's particle system, Peter Jackson's team used layers of programming to craft an uncanny new code for generating realistic, flowing cloth for death itself to be adorned in.
It's Loaded With Homages To Other Horror Movies
Peter Jackson has a grand time referencing the horror movies that inspired his work on The Frighteners. Throughout the film, any horror-movie maestro can spot the multitude of homages made in their honor.
In one scene, Frank Bannister pops his head out of a hole to mimic the infamous "Here's Johnny!" scene from Stephen King's The Shining. In another, Bannister's ghost sidekick, Cyrus, gives a complimentary "Nice shootin', Tex," taken straight from the groundbreaking ghost saga Ghostbusters.