Produced by Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson’s The Frightners cost 30 million dollars and made five and a half in the United States in 1996. It is a shame no one came out to see the film. It is a terrific medley of horror and comedy. Michael J Fox stars as Frank Banister a supernatural conman, enlisting the help of a trio of ghosts to haunt people, only to have him arrive and save the day. On one of these outings he sees a number in a man’s forehead, who soon dies unnaturally. He is killed by a mysterious hooded specter. Frank soon becomes obsessed with unraveling the mystery.
Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson’s script seems like it would be an utter mess. It contains a well layered mystery combined with genuinely funny and scary sequences. All of these elements work well, helping the film hold up over multiple viewings. Michael J Fox plays the lead well, but has a strong supporting cast including Jeffery Combs, Chi McBride, John Astin, Jake Busy and R. Lee Ermey.
Jackson’s direction is full of energy, bringing the audience from one set piece to the next. A theatrical and Director’s cut are both available now. I would recommend the Director’s Cut. It is 15 minutes longer, comprised of terrific extended scenes that make the film more personal and adding a few extra gags.
The Frightners should be a considered a classic and makes a perfect Halloween movie with its combination of scares and laughs. If you have not seen it this is the perfect time of year to. If you have, rediscover it for yourself.