It's the Grim Reaper as action hero - whose only worthy deed is to drive
Michael J. Fox into the arms of Trini Alvarado. A gang of hysterical ghouls,
a terrifying killer couple and a repulsive FBI agent guarantee that the
movie lives up to its title.
Michael J. Fox plays Frank Bannister as the psychic version of an ambulance
chaser - and an equal opportunity employer of post-life personalities. If
you've got an unwanted spirit, Frank will charge you $229.95, plus a $30
surcharge for an after midnight house call, plus $100 for materials, not
to mention gas. Being haunted can be an expensive habit. Frank knows, because
he, too, is haunted by his past. Even as a con-man who looses his other-worldly
pals on unsuspecting houses - only to come ghostbusting - Bannister fears
the Grim Reaper.
Michael J. Fox wraps his comic timing in an uncomfortable ambivalence, because
Frank is more comfortable communicating with the dead than with the living.
Every time Frank gets himself in a bind, you want to say, "Michael,
you're smart - just explain it to the other characters." Here, Fox
is not the wiseacre we remember. He's works hard to give the character of
Frank an emotional resonance unusual in a comic horror flick, even when
he's shooting holy water from a squirt gun to drive poltergeists from Dr.
Lynsky's (Trini Alvarado) kitchen.
The town of Fairwater is losing its citizens rapidly - and Frank's psychic
abilities enable him to see numbers of their foreheads, indicating all too
clearly whose number is up and who's about to go down. It's not giving away
too much to say that Alvarado's half-wit husband is just as annoying a ghost
as he was a spouse, so she's only too happy to join forces with Bannister
to spring a young woman named Patricia from her haunted house. They must
be forgiven for making several such stupid mistakes. But they're nowhere
near as stupid as FBI Agent Milton Dammers.
Cult horror star Jeffrey Combs takes Dammers beyond stereotype into fearsome
parody. Dammers turns into a little side show of his own making, becoming
so weird he's utterly unbearable. By the time he joins in a chase through
an abandoned hospital, you realize he's way out in front of the movie's
own grab-bag outrageousness.
The FBI Agent recalls director Peter Jackson's personal style. The special
effects otherwise dominate the movie, and Jackson doesn't have sufficient
space to do the quirky, kinky stuff we loved in "Heavenly Creatures"
or "Dead Alive" (aka "Braindead"). Still, he effortlessly
manages out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, even near-life-experiences
- such a mark of accomplishment as to put him in that grave new world of
foreign directors keeping Hollywood genres alive.
Back to 1996 Deauville Film Festival Reviews
Back to 1996 Venice Film Festival Reviews
Back to The Frighteners
Back to the Press Room
Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.
Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.