Sunday, March 24, 2013

Movie #182: The Frighteners

The Frighteners is a horror/comedy ghost movie starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jake Busey and Jeffrey Combs. Directed fairly early in the career by Peter Jackson.

Frank Bannister (Fox) is a con artist who claims to be psychic. Thing is, he really is psychic. He can talk to ghosts, and has three of them hanging around his half-finished house (Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe and John Astin). He has his ghosts go into folks' homes, throw things around and haunt them a bit, and leave behind one of his business cards. Then they call him up, he does a little show exorcism, and collects money.

It doesn't work as well as it might, though, because their town has been involved in a little health crisis - over the last few years, dozens of people have died of supposed heart attacks, but more like heart crushings. Bannister, apparently just now noticing this, realizes that it's being done by a figure in a hood and cloak.

Meanwhile, the new doctor in town (Alvarado) discovers that her weird patient up on the hill (Dee Wallace-Stone) is Patricia Bradley, the daughter of the hospital administrator, but also the onetime girlfriend of Johnny Barlett (Busey). The two of them went on a killing spree that took 12 lives, and then he was executed and she was sentenced to life (later commuted to house arrest).

Into this mix add FBI agent Dammers (Combs), convinced that Frank is psychically killing all these people. So what the hell?

Well, it turns out Bartlett is still killing (it just took him some time to get out of Hell), crushing people's hearts. Patricia is helping him, Dammers is just generally wrong about everything, and Frank is on the verge of falling apart from guilt and stress. It all ends up more or less OK; a lot of people die (including Frank, but he gets better in a kind of ham-fisted "it's not your time to die" sort of way, but eh) and Dr. Lucy winds up able to see ghosts, like Frank.

The movie is fast-paced and underrated, IMO. It's scary enough to be a horror movie but zany enough (in parts) to be a comedy. I think, actually, that being a gamer and being able to switch from horror to comedy quickly helps one to appreciate this movie, but I also really enjoy Michael J. Fox, and I like that the ghost "rules" are never really explained, but obviously present.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: From Dusk Till Dawn