FearTASTIC Vault O’FUN #56
The Frighteners (1996)
Writer(s):Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Starring:Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe
How charming can Michael J. Fox be? Seriously, the man can do no wrong. Loved him in the show Family Ties, rocked the fur in Teen Wolfand yes, of course, that time travel movie with the older scientist…oh yes, Back to the Future! There’s an essence to that man where you know you’re in for a good time once you see his name on the marquee. Almost every role the man plays has that Michael J. Fox touch where you know the guy is acting but it’s definitely HIS take on a character. Imagine my delight when I first saw the trailer for a quirky horror ghost flick, The Frightenersstarring none other than the ridiculously too cool for school, Michael J. Fox!
I was already ridiculously hooked as a kid when seeing the trailer for the first time, first thing I noticed that instead of his famous baby face charm, there was a man who looked like life had beat him up. There was a scruffy Michael J. Fox that still had all the charm but you can tell this was the sort of charm that can only be attributed to a con man and THAT was the beauty of this flick! The main character, Frank Bannister uses his ability to communicate with ghosts to con suckers into paying him to get rid of his ghostly pals. Already, I was liking the foundation for this film, you have a guy who has ghosts that work FOR HIM to scare strangers into giving him money, such a cool premise, I couldn’t imagine myself doing something different if I had these sorts of gifts. As the trailer continues it’s obvious that a real threat comes to town that puts Frank in the crosshairs and may be more than he can handle.
The premise of the flick already set the foundation that this was going to be a fun flick with a good amount of humor but still kept the horror since we are submersed in this world where ghosts exist but still desire to be part of the living. His ghostly sidekicks served as great comedic fodder which included a deteriorating cowboy, a disco lover boy and a neurotic nerd. All fun aside, this movie definitely had a dark side which complimented the humor quite well since there were times where the movie does get very intense. You find out not all ghosts are just wandering souls, as the mysterious villain in the film is going around destroying both the living and the dead. Not only did the movie have a great blend of humor and macabre but the flick also finds a way to fit in a good mystery in trying to find the goal and identity of the villainous soul reaper.
Oh, did I mention that this flick has Jeffrey MOTHER F*CKIN’ Combs of Reanimator fame?!?! Dear God, there wasn’t enough cool to fill this movie, the man chewed every scene with his portrayal of a psychotic FBI agent that trailed Frank for all the wrong reasons. There is an art to the kind of over the top acting that Combs does well and it shines in this movie. Even if he’s an annoying tick of a man throughout the entire flick, you still appreciate the acting chops! This flick even has a great (but short) appearance from the late, great R. Lee Ermey who plays up his famous military persona by playing a ghost who constantly berates Frank for using his gifts to exploit people. There are so many personalities in this movie that at times you find yourself jumping from moment to moment until the climax of the film takes you by (somewhat) surprise and you’re on the edge of your seat as Frank and his friends try to battle the soul reaper to save the innocent that they used to con.
There is so much personality in this flick because the casting was very on point. The film is directed by the famous Peter Jackson who is no stranger to the horror genre and took the ghost sub – genre to a great new level of humor and great story telling. You find yourself laughing at the different pickles Frank gets himself into but then get sucked in to a serious threat which finds you rooting for the characters you were just laughing with minutes earlier. The pacing of the story is great and goes back and forth between comedy, mystery and yes, some good horror elements as well.
I would confidently say that this is one of my favorite Michael J. Fox flicks of all time because the man proved he can charm himself into any genre and I’m glad he rocked this horror gem! Oh and Jeffrey Combs is a God. For reals.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.