The following review is spoiler free and is meant to be read BEFORE seeing the movie.
The Frighteners is what happens when you give somebody like Peter Jackson a budget… or at least it was what happened when you gave Peter Jackson a budget back in the 90’s. I am not saying that I don’t like the direction his career has headed, because he is firing on all cylinders now; I am saying that I miss the kind of slapstick fun (and sometimes depravity) that he used to be known for.
The Frighteners concerns Frank Bannister, a paranormal investigator who is a conman. Don’t get me wrong, he can actually see and communicate with the dead; the dead are simply in on the con. After Bannister crashes his car into a litigious-minded citizen’s fence, Bannister has his ghostly friends haunt his house! Once there to do his magic, Frank meets the gentleman’s wife, Dr. Lynskey (named after actress Melanie Lynskey, who was in Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, and has a cameo here). From here, some spooky coincidences cast Bannister under suspicion of several deaths, and Dr. Lynskey is caught up in the middle.
The rest of the film is a non-stop parade of ridiculous action sequences (and I mean that in the most loving way possible) and some over-the-top scenery-chewing acting on behalf of the Big Bad (again, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that, especially given the darkly comedic nature of this film. My only beef: there are moments where The Frighteners strives to be 100% serious, and only Michael J. Fox is really able to pull it off. Chi McBride has a serious moment or two, but he plays these in a half-comedic fashion, so with him it works.
The Frighteners is the last movie of Peter Jackson’s free spirited era of filmmaking. And thank goodness he not only ended it on a high note, but went on to make even bigger and better movies!