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The Frighteners


Director Peter Jackson's last film before his legendary "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, THE FRIGHTENERS is a manic, effects-filled mess that never lives up to its concept.

Michael J. Fox feels miscast as widower Frank Bannister, who's been able to see spirits ever since he and his wife were in a tragic car accident.

He isn't leveraging his "I See Dead People" gifts for anything good. He uses his best ghost buddies to pull cons on people and grab a few quick bucks preying on mourners at funerals.

Ya laughing yet?

Frank's in over his head when a demon begins killing people in his small town. Frank can see numbers on their foreheads, glowing ominously when they are next to die.

Hilarious stuff...huh?

The supporting cast is hit and miss. Trini Alvarado has no chemistry with Fox. Dee Wallace (Cujo) has some nice moments as a crazy woman who makes Mrs. Bates look normal.

Jeffrey Combs, so great in the cult horror flick "ReAnimator" is just obnoxious here as a creepy FBI agent who blames Frank for the murders.

The effects are first rate and every scene is visually complicated and well executed, but its so uncontrolled that I never connected with any of the action.

By 45 minutes in, all the action just felt boring and non-sensical. The characters never really make sense and other than the "wow that demon-grim reaper thing looks cool when it's chasing cars" isn't enough to carry the movie.

Jackson made a quantum leap sometime between this film and the Rings trilogy, which are flat out brilliant.

He must have learned a lot making this stinker, because every bad habit he shows here (lack of story clarity, no character development, confusing action scenes) is not an issue with his Tolkien adaptions.

Jon Astin (The Addams Family) is a bright spot as the ghost "Doc", delivering his lines like a pro as the only likable character in the film. "Full Metal Jacket"s R. Lee Ermey also has a fun, quick cameo tribute to his role in that film. But the fun is only sporadic and sorely lacking.

This was Michael J. Fox's last big screen film. After a complicated shoot in New Zealand, Fox decided to stay home and focus on TV roles, kicking off "Spin City".

With a $30 million budget, it made less than half that at theatres and faded fast from multiplexes.

Loud, boring and disjointed, THE FRIGHTENERS only scare up a D.

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