Starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, Troy Evans, Julianna McCarthy, R. Lee Ermey, Elizabeth Hawthorne
Directed by Peter Jackson
Expectations: High. I love this.
The Frighteners is Peter Jackson’s transitional film, bridging the gap between his small, imaginative indie movies, and his blockbusters to come. The Frighteners isn’t a perfect amalgamation of these things, but it does represent the closest that Jackson could probably come to replicating the manic energy of his early work while under the watchful eye of Hollywood producers. Thankfully, Jackson’s executive producer here was Robert Zemeckis, who let Jackson be himself while trusting him to deliver a fun film. Jackson definitely delivers the goods, but it is also such a tonally varied film that it completely alienated most of the American audience, causing the film to undeservedly flop.
In addition to the wildly flip-flopping tone that goes from absurd comedy to grisly horror without a moment’s notice, the plot itself is nowhere close to being a traditional “Point A to Point B” Hollywood plot. Instead, the film opens with a thrilling scene that we have no context on, and then moves into introducing us to the many characters around town. This gives The Frighteners something of a small-town, Stephen King novel vibe, as Jackson sets up the world that his characters will play in before really going for the jugular. And like a good Stephen King novel, The Frighteners might take a little while to get going, but it is still engaging its audience with exciting and whimsical things around every corner.