The Frighteners

Jackson's follow-up to Heavenly Creatures is an sfx-heavy scarefest that looks at first like a return to the slapstick horror-comedy of Braindead. Later, however, it flips into a grim, disturbing horror movie about the malevolent spirit of a serial killer back from the grave to increase his body count. Fake para-psychologist Frank Bannister (Fox) is in cahoots with a trio of tortured souls - hip dude Cyrus (McBride), creaky-boned old-timer The Judge (Astin), and nerdy bookworm Stuart (Fyfe): they scare the shit out of Fairwater's inhabitants while Frank cleans up the mess. A series of unexplained deaths heralds the arrival of a Grim Reaper-like spirit that Frank alone can see. This may be connected to a thrill-kill case in which Patricia Bradley (Stone), now a middle-aged, mother-dominated recluse, and her hospital orderly boyfriend Johnny Bartlett (Busey) massacred a dozen patients and hospital staff. Though funded by Hollywood, this New Zealand-shot movie was creatively controlled by Jackson and co-writer Fran Walsh. So while the on-screen violence is toned down, there's no soft-pedalling the ugliness of mass murder or the obscenity of ill-deserved media celebrity. At times the relentless special effects and tangled plotting veer towards visual and narrative overkill, but the final tonal swerve is shocking and effective.

Release details

Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriter: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Cast: Michael J Fox
Trini Alvarado
Peter Dobson
John Astin
Jeffrey Combs
Chi McBride
Jim Fyfe
Jake Busey
Dee Wallace Stone
R Lee Ermey
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