The Frighteners (1996)
By: CJ  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Columbia Tristar/Universal (UK). Region 2, PAL. 2.35:1 (Non-anamorphic). English, French, Italian, Spanish DD 5.1 Polish, Czech, German DD 2.0. English, French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish Subtitles. 105 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace-Stone and Jake Busey
Screenplay: Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson
Music: Danny Elfman
AKA: Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners
Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) is a man who can see and communicate with the ghosts of the dead. He uses this talent for his commercial gain by befriending some ghosts and enlisting them to perform 'hauntings' which he then charges the unwary victims extortionate prices for clearing up. But when he arrives at the home of Ray (Peter Dobson) and Dr Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado) to perform an 'exorcism', he becomes alarmed when he sees a number carved into Ray's forehead. Feeling a little spooked he leaves rather quickly.

Ray dies soon after and Frank encounters his ghost whilst walking down a busy street. Ray explains that something had reached into his chest and crushed his heart. Sure enough, Frank soon sees the culprit - death itself has arrived in the seaside town of Fairwater and the body count is rising.

With the assistance of Ray's widow, new doctor Lucy Lynskey, he sets out to stop the malevolent force. However, there are hindrances in his way, the most prominent being FBI paranormal expert Milton Dammers, who is convinced that Frank is responsible.

How does it all turn out? Well, you'll have to watch it yourself and find out!

Director Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Braindead, Lord of the Rings) drives the film along at a breakneck pace and there is never a dull moment. The cast give it all they have and deliver some marvellous performances, with Jeffrey Combs giving a maniacally over-the-top performance as Special Agent Milton Dammers, delivering great lines like: "Sheriff! You are violating my territorial bubble."

You can never accuse this film of being uninteresting as Jackson keeps introducing new plot concepts and the story twists and turns like a frenzied rollercoaster. The characters are colourful and entertaining; with an amusing turn by R. Lee Ermey spoofing his role from Full Metal Jacket as an army sergeant keeping a tight rein on his graveyard.

The ghostly characters are well realised and the set designs are suitably impressive and creepy. The dialogue is fast paced and reasonably amusing and the cast pull it all off expertly with the sure hand of Jackson at the helm.

Ghosts, serial killers, murder, a manic FBI agent and spooky goings-on galore. Could Jackson possibly have crammed anymore into the 105 minute running time?

A winner.

It's also interesting to note that an NTSC Laserdisc incarnation of this film once surfaced with a 122 minute running time - 12 minutes of extra footage. The Laserdisc also carried a 4 and a half-hour documentary on the making of the film (according to IMDB).

This UK release has suffered a 2-second cut to the shot of Dammers' exploding head, but it's not enough to warrant any great complaints and doesn't spoil the enjoyment of the film.
Universal/Columbia Tristar deliver a superb and utterly faultless transfer of this film onto DVD. The image is crisp and sharp with vivid colours and solid blacks. There is no artifacting whatsoever and absolutely no smear or colour bleeding.
The 5.1 audio is very impressive indeed, utilising the sound platform to great effect. There are plenty of directional sounds and lots of audio movement around the soundstage. This perfectly compliments the manic nature of the film and enhances the enjoyment and appreciation of the film. The dialogue is crisp and clear and is never overpowered by all the sound activity. Very impressive.
Extra Features
Unfortunately the disc is a little short on extras. All that's provided are a trailer, production notes and cast and filmmakers' notes.
The Verdict
Hopefully Universal will at some point see fit to release a special edition of this film complete with all the supplemental requirements, but, until then, this will more than suffice. The film has been given a wonderful presentation here and for now is the definitive release available on DVD. It's still worth picking up because the film is so good and, sadly, is neglected somewhat by the horror community who tend to focus on Jackson's earlier work. This is a fine film indeed and deserves a place in every horror fan's collection.
Movie Score
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