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Just before doing "Lord of the Rings," director Peter Jackson (who can be seen in a cameo as "Man with Piercings") made an off-kilter horror/comedy movie called "The Frighteners," the tale of the undead and the guy who makes a living off of them. Though "Frighteners" was barely in theaters at all, this cult flick is funny, creepy, well-acted and wonderfully directed.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has seen spirits and apparitions ever since the car crash that killed his wife. Now he operates an amateur "ghostbusting" operation that is supposed to exorcise ghosts from people's houses -- the problem is that the ghosts who haunt those houses are in league with him (Chi McBride as the opinioated afro-ed Cyrus, Jim Fyfe as the nerdy Stuart, and most of John Astin as what is left of The Judge).

Frank's business certainly isn't hurt by the fact that for years after a serial killer's murderous spree, people have died mysteriously of heart attacks. Then Frank starts seeing fiery numbers emblazoned on the foreheads of people who will die, including the husband of doctor Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado). As if trying to stop a specter of death weren't hard enough, crazed FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) believes that Frank is the one murdering people. But the evil specter is still killing -- and Lucy is the next victim.

Peter Jackson once said that he has a "moronic" sense of humor, and it shows up in all its glory here -- from bug spray dissolving a ghost's face to a piece of talking oily sludge to a drill sargeant ghost with submachine guns, this is weird and absolutely hilarious. It's the perfect blend of comedy and horror.

But he's also good during the more serious moments, such as Bannister's flashbacks to his wife's death, or the eerie sight of homicidal young lovers dancing with a gun. The opening shot is pure Jackson, with the camera swooping through a window, past fluttering curtains, and though a hole in the attic floor to a screaming woman below.

Jackson also takes the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at more conventional ghost movies: the big Gothic house, crazy old lady, ghost in '70s clothes, and Fox's hilarious turn as a ghostbuster. Nothing horrific is sacred. "There ain't nothing worse than a bunch of pissed-off brothers... that's ALREADY DEAD!" Cyrus yells at one point.

Does it have a flaw? Yes -- the opening scene doesn't seem to make much sense later on in the movie. But Jackson makes up for that with a surprisingly tight, coherent plot, and a satisfying finale that makes more sense than most other horror movies do.

The cast is brilliant, whether it's the twitchy, wild-eyed FBI agent, or the three weird ghosts. Michael J. Fox does an excellent job as Frank, with the right combination of cockiness and pathos, while Alvarado is solid as the idealistic young doctor. But the scenes are reallystolen by Dee Wallace-Stone and freaky-eyed Jake Busey, as homicidal young lovers.

"Frighteners" might not make you believe in ghosts, but it will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even shed a tear or two. Wildly funny, weird, gross, and sometimes really peculiar, this is Jackson's splatter-gore at its best.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 13, 2004
Practically bashed by critics everywhere when released in 1996, the Frighteners can be appreciated today as an underrated gem. After crafting a landmark gorefest with Dead Alive and scoring a hit among critics with Heavenly Creatures, future Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson directed this wildly inventive and surprisingly innovative film starring Michael J. Fox as a psychic investigator who, with the help of three ghost pals, runs a phony ghost busting business. Soon enough, people are getting picked off by Death himself, and it's up to Fox to find out what's really going on. So much is going on in the Frighteners that it's easy for the film to become incoherent, but it's exciting visuals and special effects, along with the performance of Fox and the energetic direction of Jackson, make this film a surprise gem that should be (and very well may be) a cult classic. The rest of the cast includes R. Lee Ermy, Jake Busey, and genre stalwart Jeffrey "Re-Animator" Combs.
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on December 15, 2005
Originally, this film was supposed to have had a Halloween 1996 release date, but Universal, in its infinite wisdom, elected to shift the release date into the summer - probably because of the awesome special effects. Unfortunately, the summer of '96 was dominated by ID4 and its city-destroying effects, which left the ghosts of Peter Jackson's The Frighteners spinning in the dust. I didn't think much of the film then.

I remained aloof until one night two or three years ago; I was up late, just flipping through the channels, when I just happened to run across this film. I recognized it, and seeing as nothing else was on, decided to give it a chance. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. It had quirky humor blended with horrific dark elements; the blending is done in such a clever way that it never completely loses either element, yet the tension is ratcheted up by shifting from more humor in the beginning to more horror towards the end. The film really walks a fine line, and it does so beautifully.

Being so impressed, I had to have it on DVD, and within a few weeks of that late night viewing, I had the original DVD release. Happy as I was to have the film, I was somewhat dissappointed by the lack of special features and, knowing it was from Peter Jackson - the man behind LOTR and the bevy of supplemental materials those films had on their DVD releases - somewhat surprised. I figured it must have been due to the film's poor box office, and assumed a more comprehensive release was out of the question.

I am pleased to say I was wrong, and this new Director's Cut DVD edition is the answer to any desires I might have had for a better release. A full 14 minutes has been restored to the movie, there's a full-length commentary by Jackson, storyboards, a trailer...but, by far, the best thing about this disc is the 3 hour and 45 minute documentary on the second side. It is the most comprehensive special feature I have ever seen, and considering I managed to watch it all in one sitting, it's also one of the most enjoyable. It's very in-depth and virtually any question one might have had about the making of the film is sure to be answered within. Regardless of the other features, the upgrade to this disc is worth it for the documentary alone.

I whole-heartedly recommend a purchase.
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Just before doing "Lord of the Rings," director Peter Jackson (who can be seen in a cameo as "Man with Piercings") made an off-kilter horror/comedy movie called "The Frighteners," the tale of the undead and the guy who makes a living off of them. Though "Frighteners" was barely in theaters at all, this cult flick is funny, creepy, well-acted and wonderfully directed.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has seen spirits and apparitions ever since the car crash that killed his wife. Now he operates an amateur "ghostbusting" operation that is supposed to exorcise ghosts from people's houses -- the problem is that the ghosts who haunt those houses are in league with him (Chi McBride as the opinioated afro-ed Cyrus, Jim Fyfe as the nerdy Stuart, and most of John Astin as what is left of The Judge).

Frank's business certainly isn't hurt by the fact that for years after a serial killer's murderous spree, people have died mysteriously of heart attacks. Then Frank starts seeing fiery numbers emblazoned on the foreheads of people who will die, including the husband of doctor Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado). As if trying to stop a specter of death weren't hard enough, crazed FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) believes that Frank is the one murdering people. But the evil specter is still killing -- and Lucy is the next victim.

Peter Jackson once said that he has a "moronic" sense of humor, and it shows up in all its glory here -- from bug spray dissolving a ghost's face to a piece of talking oily sludge to a drill sargeant ghost with submachine guns, this is weird and absolutely hilarious. It's the perfect blend of comedy and horror.

But he's also good during the more serious moments, such as Bannister's flashbacks to his wife's death, or the eerie sight of homicidal young lovers dancing with a gun. The opening shot is pure Jackson, with the camera swooping through a window, past fluttering curtains, and though a hole in the attic floor to a screaming woman below.

Jackson also takes the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at more conventional ghost movies: the big Gothic house, crazy old lady, ghost in '70s clothes, and Fox's hilarious turn as a ghostbuster. Nothing horrific is sacred. "There ain't nothing worse than a bunch of pissed-off brothers... that's ALREADY DEAD!" Cyrus yells at one point.

Does it have a flaw? Yes -- the opening scene doesn't seem to make much sense later on in the movie. But Jackson makes up for that with a surprisingly tight, coherent plot, and a satisfying finale that makes more sense than most other horror movies do.

The cast is brilliant, whether it's the twitchy, wild-eyed FBI agent, or the three weird ghosts. Michael J. Fox does an excellent job as Frank, with the right combination of cockiness and pathos, while Alvarado is solid as the idealistic young doctor. But the scenes are reallystolen by Dee Wallace-Stone and freaky-eyed Jake Busey, as homicidal young lovers.

"Frighteners" might not make you believe in ghosts, but it will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even shed a tear or two. Wildly funny, weird, gross, and sometimes really peculiar, this is Jackson's splatter-gore at its best.
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on November 29, 1999
New Zealand film wunderkind Peter Jackson's first American film, "The Frighteners," died a quick and ugly death in theaters shortly after its release, only to return and haunt the film libraries of a small and loyal group of fans. Jackson, who made his name with a series of spectacularly gory low-budget horror flicks, surprised the world with his Oscar-nominated true-crime drama "Heavenly Creatures" (a must see) and went on to make this more mainstream film with producer Robert Zemeckis. Michael J. Fox, in a surprisingly good performance, is phony ghostbuster Frank Bannister; a car accident left him able to talk with the dead, and now he consorts with three amusing losers from the spirit world to con the unsuspecting residents of the town of Fairwater. But soon Frank has a problem on his hands: the spectral source of the town's recent rash of mystery heart attacks has reared its ugly head. It's cloaked and skeletal. It's got a switchblade scythe. And Frank is the only one who can stop it. The ghostly killer is somehow related to a decades-old murder spree and a frightened woman in a creepy old house-- and to Frank's own dark past as well. Jackson's filmmaking has a giddy, eerie funhouse energy to it, and the film veers from disturbing thrills to surreal sight gags and one-liners with whiplash speed. Surprisingly, it all works, thanks to a smart script, dazzling visuals and special effects, and several fine performances. Most notable is Jeffrey Coombs' Special Agent Dammers, a high-strung FBI agent who comes across as Jim Carrey playing Hitler. If you're looking for something conventional, you may leave this film scratching your head. But if you enjoy slightly off-kilter entertainment, you'll be glad you dug this one up. Poignant, creepy and very funny, "The Frighteners" is a bundle of ghoulish fun.
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on July 26, 2008
Great Movie! Great Actors! and Peter Jackson Rules!!!

SIDE A:
THE FRIGHTENERS DIRECTORS CUT:
- Introductions by Peter Jackson = Total Minute Time (2:41)
- Film Time (2 Hrs. 3 Mins)
- WIDESCREEN 2:35:1

BONUS FEATURES:
- Commentary With Director Peter Jackson (On / Off)
- Storyboards = Total Minute Time (45:35)
- Theatrical Trailer = Total Minute Time (2:08)

SPOKEN LANGUAGE:
English 5:1

SUBTITLES
- English (*SDH = subtitled for the deaf & hard-of-hearing)
- Español
- Français

SIDE B:
THE MAKING OF THE FRIGHTENERS:

- Introductions by Peter Jackson = Total Minute Time (1:57)
- Ghost Stories = Total Minute Time (6:20)
- Script Development = Total Minute Time (6:02)
- Michael J. Fox & Trini Alvarado = Total Minute Time (6:43)
- Jim Fyfe, Chi McBride and John Astin = Total Minute Time (8:01)
- Rehearsing = Total Minute Time (6:36)
- Lyttelton as Fairwater = Total Minute Time (3:17)
- Introduction to WETA = Total Minute Time (4:35)
- Scene 28 = Total Minute Time (4:14)
- Ghost Effects = Total Minute Time (9:52)
- Motion Control & Blue-screen = Total Minute Time (7:57)
- The Jackson Boys: Peter's Cameo & Billy Jackson = Total Minute Time (5:01)
- Stunts = Total Minute Time (4:52)
- On the Set = Total Minute Time (25:58)
- The Reaper! = Total Minute Time (12:55)
- Rustler = Total Minute Time (3:06)
- The Gatekeeper = Total Minute Time (1:49)
- Jeffrey Combs = Total Minute Time (7:22)
- Miniatures = Total Minute Time (2:50)
- Dee Wallace Stone & Jake Busey = Total Minute Time (6:52)
- Trini's Bruises = Total Minute Time (2:04)
- Slimeface & Blobman = Total Minute Time (7:13)
- Wallpaperman & Portraitman = Total Minute Time (4:12)
- Acceleration = Total Minute Time (3:30)
- The Worm = Total Minute Time (3:37)
- The Gatekeeper, The Judge & Other Deleted Scenes = Total Minute Time (17:07)
- Music = Total Minute Time (24:11)
- Bloopers = Total Minute Time (16:14)
- Ratings & Final Thoughts = Total Minute Time (9:14)
- Credits = Total Minute Time (1:35)
TOTAL RUNNING TIME = 3:43:35

LANGUAGES:
- English

SUBTITLES
- English (*SDH = subtitled for the deaf & hard-of-hearing)
- Español
- Français

The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Platinum Series Special Extended Edition)
The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Platinum Series Special Extended Edition)
The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Platinum Series Special Extended Edition)
King Kong - Extended Cut (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)
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on April 23, 2008
I caught this movie on TV, and it was entertaining enough for me to sit through the whole film. I would have liked to give it a 3.6 stars if I could. I think it has a spark of something which makes it a little better than average, but I hesitate to call it excellent (4 stars). Since I knew nothing about this film, I was quite amazed to find people categorize it as a horror-comedy when I later looked it up here on Amazon.

I am an easily terrified person, so I generally stayed away from horror or gory movies. I remember when I finally gathered enough courage to watch "The Shining" because it is said to be such a classic, I had to turn my head away every time I sensed something potentially scary coming up. In the end, my total viewing time of that movie was less than 5 minutes. I suppose this explains how much I can stomach a horror movie. When I watched this movie, the word "scary" never came into my mind. I though it was fun, the special effect nice, and it was nice to see Michael J Fox again after a long while (although I wished his character wasn't so headstrong, as usual). The plot could have been a little more unpredictable. But it was fun, entertaining, but no horror movie.
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on December 13, 2005
In 1995, Peter Jackson was a New Zealand-born filmmaker who was known only to cult movie fans for a series of low-budget gorefests which were so remarkable they established his standing as a very talented, if somewhat sick and twisted, director. With such films as Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and the legendary Dead Alive (aka Braindead) to his credit, Jackson established himself as a macabre genius with a vivid imagination and a keen eye for visual details. With Heavenly Creatures in 1994, he showed that he was capable of much more than just blood, gore and sick humor. He could actually tell real stories of human drama in a powerful way. That wouldn't have been so surprising had his previous film not featured a man being killed by a walking pile of severed intestines. No one had any idea at this point that this guy from New Zealand would go on to make three of the greatest films of all time.

In 1995, Peter Jackson made a return to comedy-horror with The Frighteners. While it's much less extreme than the likes of Dead Alive, The Frighteners is a wonderful mix of horror and humor and remains a very impressive directorial effort. Michael J. Fox stars as a psychic con man who gets his ghost pals to terrorize someone house so that he can offer his services to get rid of them. Also appearing are Trini Alvarado, Chi McBride, John Astin, Dee Wallace-Stone, Jake Busey, and R. Lee Ermey. One of the highlights of the movie is Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs' hilarious performance as a weirdo FBI Agent.

The Frighteners' plot, concocted by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, is not exactly groundbreaking but it certainly does the job. This movie marked (I think) Peter Jackson's first use of digital special effects. The movie is filled with special effects from start to finish. His effects company, WETA, got their feet wet here experimenting with many techniques that would be put to use on Jackson's next project, The Lord of the Rings. Seeing The Frighteners after the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can plainly see Jackson's genius at work. Even though the material is certainly not of the same magnitude, Jackson's visual prowess and strong imagination are very visible. His camera movements are always interesting, such as his fondness for steadicam and handheld shots. His frequent use of wide-angle lenses helps to lend a kind of surreal, wacky feel to some scenes. And of course, there's plenty of goofy humor as you would expect. There's a pretty memorable scene involving Judge (John Astin) and a mummy in a museum. Any scene involving Jeffrey Combs is hysterical.

The Frighteners is a highly-enjoyable movie that fans of Peter Jackson must see. The movie, not too surprisingly, did not find its audience in theaters, but developed a devout cult following on video. Cult fans are really the best audience for this movie. It's a bit too offbeat for mainstream audiences. You can see from this movie that there is a very talented and imaginative director at the helm, one who is capable of great things. Indeed Jackson went on to make The Lord of the Rings trilogy after this, so obviously he is capable of great things. The Frighteners is less concerned with characters and story, it's more about humor and special effects, so no one is likely to proclaim it a masterpiece. But it's certainly a great time, for those who enjoy this type of thing.

This new DVD edition, Peter Jackson's Director's Cut, is basically the 1998 laserdisc on DVD. It features Jackson's first feature commentary track, plus the legendary 4-hour documentary The Making of The Frighteners, which was produced by PJ himself. The Director's Cut is a longer cut of the movie, extended by about 13 minutes. I can't say if its superior to the theatrical cut, but it just fleshes things out a bit more and adds a bit more characterization. The 16:9 widescreen transfer is very good. It looks like new movie, not one that's ten years old. This is a great DVD edition of a very good movie, one that fans are sure to love. Highly recommended for cult fans or anyone interested in Peter Jackson's development as a filmmaker.
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on September 25, 2011
Please describe the audio/video quality of any Blu-Ray you review. Thanks to those who do this.

The video quality was excellent. There was just a little very fine grain in some of the scenes - hardly noticable. Overall, fantastic video presentation. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1, and the movie lasts just over 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 was also excellent. Plenty of surround sound, and a real workout for the sub-woofers.

One thing - if you pause the movie, don't be gone long. I paused it for a few minutes, and the screen saver came on. I pressed "Pause", "Play", "Forward", "Backward", and could not get the movie to restart. I had to stop the movie and restart it.
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VINE VOICEon November 7, 2012
While I recommend this film to the "tween" and up age groups, the plot may be a bit over the head of the younger folks. That said, it is a hoot and a half even if you don't understand the intricacies of the plot (not that the plot's genius...just somehwhat convoluted/involved).

The Frighteners is dark comedy or humorous horror movie, depending on your take.

Michael J Fox is a paranormal investigator who is legitimate, but he scams people by having ghosts he works with haunt houses so he can get a paycheck for "cleansing" them.

His wife was killed in a car accident under suspicious circumstances and he has never forgiven himself and the police still suspect he was somehow involved.

Events soon start happening that lead him to believe that his wife was murdered and the murderer was a ghost.

The film is essentially about him trying to solve the mystery of her murder and stop additional murders along the way.

There are plot elements that involve Charlie Starkweather and his rampage and an extension of similar in the plot.

The film is raucous fun, but you do need to pay attention to what's going on, because several different sub-plot lines are running tangent to the main one.

I don't want to give too much away as this is a fun film to watch on a stormy night to give you just a bit of the creeps and quite a few laughs.

Oh, yeah, and if that isn't enough this was one of Peter Jackson's (Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, The Hobbit) first films.
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