The Frighteners (1996)

thefrighteners_1Starring 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.

threehalfstar


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.

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Near Dark (1987)

Starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller, Marcie Leeds, Kenny Call, Troy Evans

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Expectations: High, been looking forward to this for a while.


Well, this is apparently the week of movies that don’t fit into the standard mold of what you’d generally expect from a horror movie. With the exception of Tales from the Hood, everything I’ve done this week has had some strange twist on the genre, or tried to subvert it to fit whatever artistic goals the director had in mind. Near Dark does both, and as the hype would have me believe, it does both incredibly well. Near Dark might not be a traditional horror movie, but it is unique, interesting and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

The story isn’t anything especially new to the genre: a young vampire rashly turns a mortal into a bloodsucker, and now said mortal must learn to cope with his new skills. But while the story itself is average and kind of done to death, the execution here is anything but. Director Kathryn Bigelow specifically set out to make a western film, but when she was unable to secure funding, she decided to jump onto the vampire hype wagon and make a revisionist vampire western. Sounds like a tall order for sure, but she pulls it off with the utmost style.

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