Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Frighteners

So in between his art-house masterpiece (Heavenly Creatures) and his big-budget fantasy epic masterpiece (the Lord of the Rings trilogy) Peter Jackson made this quirky little genre flick for Robert Zemeckis. I love the concept: after a car accident that kills his wife, Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) gains the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Rather than become John Edwards, Frank uses his deceased companions for monetary gain and becomes a ghostbuster -- the spirits (he lives with a few) pay a visit to a random home, spook the residents, and drop Frank's business card. He comes in with bizarre gadgets and a holy water pistol and "cleans" the house. But trouble arises when an unfriendly ghost shows up in town and starts waxing the residents. It's all in good fun, and Jackson's technical skills are more than up to the task: the special effects are nothing short of dazzling, as are the remarkable makeup jobs on the various corpses. As to be expected from a Peter Jackson movie, there's some lowbrow humor thrown in for good measure; the decaying judge (John Astin) has an amorous encounter with an Egytian mummy, capped off with a pitch-black one-liner that you will find either appalling or hilarious. Actually, what's really appalling is that Danny Elfman scored this movie and somehow Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party" didn't find its way onto the soundtrack (instead, a third-rate version of "Don't Fear the Reaper" plays over the end credits).

Rating: ***

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