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The Frighteners (1996)

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

Director:

Peter Jackson
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Popularity
3,635 ( 321)
3 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael J. Fox ... Frank Bannister
Trini Alvarado ... Lucy Lynskey
Peter Dobson ... Ray Lynskey
John Astin ... The Judge
Jeffrey Combs ... Milton Dammers
Dee Wallace ... Patricia Bradley (as Dee Wallace Stone)
Jake Busey ... Johnny Bartlett
Chi McBride ... Cyrus
Jim Fyfe ... Stuart
Troy Evans ... Sheriff Perry
Julianna McCarthy Julianna McCarthy ... Old Lady Bradley
R. Lee Ermey ... Hiles
Elizabeth Hawthorne ... Magda Rees-Jones
Angela Bloomfield ... Debra Bannister
Desmond Kelly Desmond Kelly ... Harry Sinclair
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Storyline

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 <hypersonic91@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Something has put the fear of death in the living and sent the dead running for their lives. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Fantasy | Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for terror/violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

New Zealand | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 July 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners See more »

Filming Locations:

Oklahoma, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,565,495, 21 July 1996

Gross USA:

$16,759,216

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$29,359,216
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

DTS | DTS-Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The shot of R. Lee Ermey screaming down at Frank Bannister in the cemetery is a reference to the shot of him screaming down at Private Joker in Full Metal Jacket (1987). See more »

Goofs

During the scene in the museum the two guards fire at least 45 shots from their automatic pistols without reloading. See more »

Quotes

Dammers: We have a body count of... twenty eight. You're a very dangerous man, Mr. Bannister.
Sheriff Walt Perry: For Christ's sake, you're not seriously suggesting that Frank is responsible for...
Dammers: You're way out of your depth here, Sheriff Perry. Please leave.
Sheriff Walt Perry: Frank Bannister is my prisoner.
Dammers: By the power invested in me by the president of the United States, I am telling you to get the hell out of this room.
See more »

Alternate Versions

USA television version replaces the scene of Dammers' head being blown off with him instead being blown back into the chapel doors. See more »

Connections

Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Kid-Friendly Horror Movies (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Fear The Reaper
Written by Donald Roeser
Performed by The Muttonbirds (as The Mutton Birds)
Courtesy of Virgin Records Australasia
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
This looks like one tough business!
14 April 2006 | by lost-in-limboSee all my reviews

In a small quiet coastal town of Fairwater, residents are dying in very strange circumstances and Frank Banister makes a living by scamming people of Fairwater with his psychic abilities to rid poltergeists out of their homes. Which, unknowingly for the occupants the trio of spirits that are causing the havoc happen to be part of Frank's scam. Frank manages to communicate and see the dead because of a scarring trauma he had. While, his set-up might be going to plan, the strange deaths keep on rising and Frank starts seeing numbers engraved on peoples' foreheads and one night he encounters a malevolent spirit shaped as the grim reaper who's performing these killings. The town believes Frank has something to do with the murders and a FBI agent is brought on the case and tries at every opportunity to pin the deaths on Frank.

Well, Peter Jackson has made a name for himself with his last four blockbusters, but just before those epic films he made this odd ,comedy-horror caper that was aimed for a mainstream audience, but it sadly went by unnoticed, because it just didn't appeal to everyone's tastes. I've seen it a couple of times and I don't mind it, even if the film's all over the shop. The distinctively, novel film is brimming with creative images, oddball bunch of characters, masterfully constructed CGI effects, deliciously, quirky black humour and spontaneous jolts. So, whats not like!

Well, despite these great aspects the film feels overly convoluted with many ideas and back-stories that makes the tone shift back and forth in such a unsteady rate. You just don't know what it really wants to be and it just feels like the film feels the same way too. The comical humour and ghoulish horror doesn't always gel, with the first half of the flick being more humorous, then suddenly it shifts gear with the second half going for some fast-paced thrills and shocks, but here Jackson never manages connect the two that successfully. That's not to say I didn't find it amusing, because it is. Its an entertaining caper and an ingenious thought, but it throws around so many paths the film could've taken instead of just fleshing one out and going for it. The meaty script is an complete muddle with many scenarios that only scratch the top of the surface and it seems to just go on for too long.

While, the material might have been incoherent, it's Jackson's sharp visual eye that screams at you with the film's stark, Gothic fairytale style. Jackson always makes great use of the scenery and here is no exception with a murky colour palette that has a tonne of atmosphere about it. The twitchy camera-work is always on the move and Danny Elfman's score beats out a spaced out vibe that goes highly strung when the pace picks up. Jackson succeeds in creating around these kinetic aspects, slices of unexpected turns, pumping action and firmly, constructed suspense. But the film's big show stopper is the FX bonanza with it's extravagantly slick effects that shows Jackson demonstrates supreme control in his vision. The glaring getup of the Grim Reaper is the most artistic and forcible of the lot. Though, if you're looking for some gross-out, make-up effects there's none of that to be found and that's the same for any kind of campy nature. This project does seem more colder and distant than that of his previous efforts with the humour side of the things feeding more off the black misery than the goofiness.

The film has a great cast on show with Michael J Fox who fits well as the sympathetic lead Frank. Trini Alvarado as Dr. Lucy Lynskey is good too. Dee Wallace Stone is great as the on edge Patricia. Jake Busey is equally good as her evil-minded boyfriend who's back from the grave committing murders. Chi McBride, John Astin and Jim Fyfe play the ghosts that teamed up with Frank and they add to the humour and so does Peter Dobson as the self-assured Ray. But when in frame its Jeffery Combs who steals the show as the eccentric FBI agent Dammers, who's one real nut! Also there's a amusing cameo from R.Lee Ermey mimicking his performance from "Full Metal Jacket" as a Sgt. Hiles a spirit of a graveyard.

A flawed, but enjoyably agreeable dark comedy-supernatural flick.

p.s. This review is on the theatrical release.


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