The Frighteners (1996)

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Paranormal investigator Michael J. Fox had an accident that enabled him to communicate with the dead – a skill he had been using to fleece the recently bereaved – until he crosses paths with a ghostly serial killer who frames him for murder.

One of Peter Jackson’s early forays into Hollywood, The Frighteners is a horror comedy that blends his sense of the macabre with slapstick sight gags and wish fulfilment and as a result feels like a rather uneven homage to Tim Burton in general and Beetlejuice in particular. A lot of the content is actually rather grim but the cartoonish elements involving his ghostly sidekicks almost enters Roger Rabbit territory making the film seem very schizophrenic; its a bit too horrific in places for young children and too silly for adults making it fall a little too much between two stools. The casting of Michael J.Fox adds to this and it all feels like an attempt to jump on the Ghostbusters bandwagon, but Jackson’s influence makes the tone miss the “family entertainment” mark somewhat. In fact, if he hadn’t been trying so hard to break the US mainstream I think it could’ve been a much better film.

It still definitely has its moments – the final showdown with the serial killers is a highlight – and fans of TV series Supernatural by which it was clearly influenced should give it a try.

6/10

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