Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
The Frighteners (1997)

Comedy horror - and we're not talking about the post-modern ironic stuff of "Scream" - is a much underused genre. That said, it's also a difficult domain to master, one few have managed. And while "The Frighteners" is no way as good as classics like "The Evil Dead" series, it's a pretty decent attempt.

Frank Bannister (Fox) is a psychic investigator. He's also a conman. Yes, he can see ghosts, but they're his mates, whom he uses to trick the residents of a small, rather spooky town into paying him lots of money to exorcise them.

Unfortunately, the town begins to experience a rash of unexplainable deaths that appear to have been carried out by serial killer Johnny Bartlett (Busey), who many years earlier mowed down a bunch of people at the local hospital. The problem is: Bartlett was executed. So, with the help of a local doctor (Alvarado), Bannister (who we discover is inextricably linked to Bartlett's brutality) sets out to solve the crime.

Director Jackson (who also made "Heavenly Creatures") has a distinct style that is much in evidence here. Full of special effects, but still strangely 'indie', the movie has a unique sensibility - such as throwing in oddball characters like a nosey FBI agent called Milton Dammers (Combs) - that can really only be appreciated in the watching.

There's also a welcome big-screen appearance by Fox, while the increasingly eerie shenanigans play heavily on the nervous system.

An interesting and worthwhile watch, especially to see just what kind of character is behind the wheel of the new, live-action version of "Lord Of The Rings", which Jackson is directing.

Read an article about comedy and horror in movies here.

Read a review of Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of The Rings".

End Credits

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson

Stars: Michael J Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace-Stone, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Length: 110 minutes

Cinema: 1997

DVD: 17 January 2000

VHS: 6 March 2000

Country: New Zealand/US

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