Friday, June 5, 2009

Boo On You

The Frighteners (1995 / Director’s Cut 2005 reviewed)

This is a comedy/horror film from director and co-writer Peter Jackson. I hated both the comedy and the horror here.

There’s a decent enough premise at work: Michael J. Fox stars as Frank, a phony ghost buster who makes a living by scamming, well, the living. It turns out that Frank really can see and communicate with ghosts, especially the two spirits, Cyrus and Stuart, who live with him and do all the haunting and poltergeisting he needs done to collect rent money. But people start dying a lot in Frank’s sleepy little town and he’s drawn into a ghastly tale involving what appears to be the Grim Reaper himself.

I didn’t laugh once during this movie. Not once. Here’s why: THERE WASN’T ANYTHING FUNNY IN IT! There wasn’t any character-based humor - Fox played everything straight, like he was in a traditional drama. There wasn’t any situational humor (Jim Belushi's lame According to Jim has more laughs). There are several scenes of the good ghosts acting silly, like when Stu can't walk completely through a door and has to get pulled through, or they complain about Frank's driving, or being stuck in his car's trunk. Har-dee har-har. Old Scooby Doo episodes have funnier material than that. Chi McBridge as Cyrus, the dead black man from the 1970s, made me smile a couple times with his rants (which were all improvised by the actor - maybe he should have done a draft of the script!). That’s it. Michael J. Fox was totally wasted, which is a crime as he is a gifted comic actor - check out that little comedy he did called Back to the Future.

The horror aspect was also boring, like a hot pepper with no sting. Jackson intended the film as conceived, written and directed to be PG-13, but of course the ass-clowns with the Motion Picture Ratings Board (MPAA) slapped an R on this thing. Jackson had cut out things like explicit gore, but still tried to give the movie a more mature tone. The movie starts out as a lame comedy, but switches gears to a horror-thriller and goes completely serious. One thing stood out as really wrong for a PG-13 film: Jeffrey Combs stars as a veteran FBI agent with a really bad haircut who specializes in religious cults. At one point he tears open his shirt to show all the scars he has received from these wackos over the years, and he even admits he was made a sex slave in Charles Manson’s cult. Now, I don’t know what the fuck is in New Zealand’s water supply that made Jackson write this, but Combs’ character’s back story is totally inappropriate for a children’s film.

The climax is fairly stupid, at one point involving a giant worm-thing that looked like it wiggled over from the movie Spawn. The music is typical Danny Elfman of the time, which is to say not his best and interchangeable with much of what he’d done to this point. The digital visual effects were probably state of the art at the time for all of 10 minutes, but look very dated now. The best thing about this movie was the bloopers featurette which showed Michael J. Fox constantly calling the spectral character of the Judge "Doc" instead (it's the only time Fox perked up)!

This is a terrible, terrible movie, with only one good thing going for it: it makes me want to watch a much better movie like Ghostbusters or Army of Darkness.

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