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The Frighteners (1996)

R  |   |  Comedy, Horror  |  19 July 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 65,113 users  
Reviews: 217 user | 115 critic

After a tragic car accident that killed his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people but when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Patricia Ann Bradley (as Dee Wallace-Stone)
Jim Fyfe ...
Stuart, Bannister's Ghostly Assistant
Julianna McCarthy ...
Angela Bloomfield ...
Desmond Kelly ...


After a car accident in which his wife, Debra, was killed and he was injured, Frank Bannister develops psychic abilities allowing him to see, hear, and communicate with ghosts. After losing his wife, he then gave up his job as an architect, letting his unfinished "dream house" sit incomplete for years, and put these skills to use by befriending a few ghosts and getting them to haunt houses in the area to drum up work for his ghostbusting business; Then Frank proceeds to "exorcise" the houses for a fee. But when he discovers that an entity resembling the Grim Reaper is killing people, marking numbers on their forehead beforehand, Frank tries to help the people whom the Reaper is after! Written by Anthony Pereyra <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When your number's up, its up. See more »


Comedy | Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for terror/violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

19 July 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners  »

Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$5,565,000 (USA) (19 July 1996)


DEM 26,052 (Germany) (2 January 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Trini Alvarado sustained so many bruises working on the film, receiving new ones almost every day, that the make up department would take pictures for future reference. See more »


Frank's breakfast cereal changes from multi-colored Lucky Charms to bluish-purple Boo Berry between shots. Both boxes can be seen in the background. See more »


Frank Bannister: I'm just trying to make a living.
Magda Rees-Jones: Living? Not a word you'd know a lot about. Is it Mr.Bannister?
See more »


Written by Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell
Performed by Sonic Youth
Courtesy of DCG Records
By Arrangement with MCA Special Markets and Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Jackson will never do better.
4 July 2000 | by (The Penumbra) – See all my reviews

I used to love The Frighteners and I was one of the few people who actually saw it in cinemas back in the day. Peter Jackson used to be so full of imagination and potential. He started off doing raw, gory horror films (actually broad comedies) like Bad Taste, Braindead, and Meet the Feebles. The Frighteners was his first Hollywood film, and for better or worse, the first film in which his love affair with CGI seized control of his vision.

Michael J. Fox (in his last live-action lead role) is Frank Bannister a psychic investigator/con man with a tragic past who uses his ghost pals to scare people and run a fake ghostbusting racket. His hometown of Clearwater is in the midst of an epidemic in which seemingly healthy people are dying of heart attacks but Frank soon discovers that there is a much more sinister reason behind it and tackles the dark forces before they claim the life of his new love interest.

The mystery and plot twists in The Frighteners are all well-written and keep it alive (pun intended) for the entire running time without the slightest lull. I honestly do mean it when I say that this will probably remain the best film in Jackson's career. Yes, even better than those tedious, overdone LOTR movies, better than King Kong, better than...etc.

So why the 6/10 review? Believe me, back when I was a teenager I would have given this 8/10 without hesitation, but I just cannot stand Jackson as a filmmaker anymore. For a director who began making gritty, in-your-face horror with practical make-up and special effects he come along way/fallen far from his roots. Nothing this guy does these days is 'real'. Nothing is genuinely there, tangible, in front of the camera. It's all a CGI and fake, and The Frighteners was the tipping point for that particular trajectory. Even the Lovely Bones, terrible as it was, had CGI enhancements all over, even outside of the 'Heaven' scenes. Nothing is REAL with this guy, not anymore! He needs to go back to making movies with a camera, some 16mm film, and a boom mike if he wants to get any respect from me or scrape back any shred of credibility. The generic Danny Elfman score, which sounds like absolutely everything else he's ever done, didn't help either.

Universal took a gamble with releasing The Frighteners in the summer season of 1996 (it didn't reach the UK until February 1997, and even then only for about a week) and it was a gamble that they would come to regret. Summer 1996 was an effects filled season with movies like Independence Day, Twister, and Eraser doing huge business. The Frighteners (much more suited to a Halloween release) had a truly terrible trailer, to the tune of Alan Silvestri's annoying Death Becomes Her score, that made it look like a light-hearted comedy. The R-rating was also joke, and a stupid decision. Jackson cut 14 minutes from the movie to lessen the tone but the MPAA still slapped the movie with an R despite the fact that there really, really isn't anything, even in the 124-minute director's cut that warrants such a rating. Plus, the fact that Jackson shot this in rainy New Zealand (doubling as the Pacific Northwest, I assume) meant that a dreary, drizzly, depressing-looking movie fought for box office takings against happy, upbeat, sunny summer movies, and in a year when America was hosting the Olympics too.

Bad move, Universal, very, very bad move.

63 of 106 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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