Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, John Astin
An exorcist for hire employs ghosts to help drum up
business, but hasn't counted on Death visiting town...
Peter Jackson’s most accessible movie (before he
started making blockbusters that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars)
also seems to be generally under-appreciated, and even seems to have
alienated those acolytes who had championed the director after revelling
in his gore-fests Bad Taste and Brain Dead. The
Frighteners, about an unlucky guy who uses a group of low-rent ghosts
to maintain a faltering business offering exorcism services, is a
beautifully crafted horror film, and is often genuinely funny, too.
Michael J. Fox is terrific in what sadly might be his
last major film role, and there’s decent support from Trini Alvarado and
Jake Busey. There are also cameo appearances from three character actors
who are practically genre icons: Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), John
Astin (The Addams Family) and Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling).
Whilst the film is never terribly scary, there’s a fair amount of gore
and some excellent special effects (including prosthetic make-up work by
The disc’s only extra is a trailer, which is a
crushing disappointment, since the feature-packed Signature Collection
Director’s Cut US laserdisc contained an expanded version of the
film (adding about thirteen minutes of new material, which would probably
have bumped the film’s rating up from a “15” to a “18” rating),
a commentary track, and hours and hours of “Making of…” material.
The Region 2 DVD presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) ratio, but,
unlike the R1 version, isn’t 16:9 enhanced. The powerful 5.1 sound
energises Danny Elfman’s thundering score, and the film has a terrific
sound mix. The UK version has been very slightly cut by the BBFC, to tone
down a scene where a character is shot in the head.
October 2005 update: this edition will be replaced by a three-disc
Special Edition version on December the 26th. This new set will feature
many (if not all) of the features from the laserdisc box set, and will
include the Director's Cut of the film. It will also be the first time
that the film will have been made available uncut on home video in the UK.