Fearful Symmetry

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The Frighteners

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Ghost story

Ghost story

The Frighteners kind of sits astride director Peter Jackson’s earlier films, like Bad Taste and Braindead that were all blood and guts mayhem comedy-horror and the later epic, more considered, Lord Of The Rings trilogy and King Kong. After his early, scrappy horror films, the strange true-murder story of Heavenly Creatures seemed a bit of an aberration at the time, despite its fantasy elements, but then Jackson stepped back into more familiar terror with The Frighteners. However although there’s a hell of a lot of comedy-horror mayhem here the gore factor has been ramped right down. Although we do see ripped flesh – like a member of the undead losing their bottom jaw – it’s glowing cgi ghosts not rotting practical-effects zombies this time, and it’s played, even more for laughs than before.

Micheal J. Fox plays a pretend professional ghostbuster. He can actually see ghosts; he’s got a gang of them – a geek, a 70s hipster and an ancient cowboy as friends. But they help him create fake hauntings which he can then turn up to, exorcise and pocket some cash. Then Fox happens upon what seems like a real haunting… Things take a turn for the worse when after a series of murders in the small town that he operates in, a real malevolent spirit makes an appearance. What follows are a series of set-pieces that reach Tex Avery levels of madness.

Overall it’s a bit of a confusing mess, that justifiably sank at the box office and is probably best admired for the, at the time, pretty damn spiffy special effects – and Jackson cannot seem to resist egging the pudding at every turn; for instant the end sequence seems to go on for far too long.

However there are a couple of fantastic walk-on parts, that on their own make the film worth checking out: Jeffrey ‘Reanimator’ Combs playing a deranged FBI agent and R. Lee Ermey – best know as the sadistic drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket – playing, well just about exactly the same character, only in ghost form, completely steal the movie from Fox and several bazillion dollars worth of sfx.

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Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 20, 2009 at 8:57 pm

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