Monday Movie: The Frighteners
This past weekend, Tyler and I and a rotating cast of our favorite friends and podcast guests watched all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. We talked a lot about Jackson and the extent to which he did or did not translate the delirious, lo-fi horror personality of his early films to the big-budget literary adaptation. One Jackson film that never came up, though, is his first American studio effort, the effects-heavy, dark comedy/horror gem, The Frighteners. When the R-rated film was released in 1996, I’ll admit my main interest was the chance to see Alex P. Keaton cuss. That happens in The Frighteners, along with a whole lot more. Michael J. Fox’s Frank Bannister can see ghosts and they mostly come in the form of broad, comic archetypes like Chi McBride’s afro-and-bellbottoms 70’s spectre or R. Lee Ermey’s self-homage to the shouting drill sergeant he played in Full Metal Jacket. Alongside these hijinks, though, runs a vicious and sadistic horror tale about the ghost of a serial killer whom death couldn’t stop (Jake Busey has perhaps never been better; who else could give this teeth-gnashing performance beside the toothiest actor in Hollywood?). The Frighteners may have been too slight or too oddball to have earned the staying power of Jackson’s later films but it’s a bloody, hilarious thrill that I wouldn’t recommend overlooking.