The Frighteners

Critics Consensus

Boasting top-notch special effects and exuberant direction from Peter Jackson, The Frighteners is visually striking but tonally uneven.

64%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 39

71%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 63,040

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Movie Info

Once an architect, Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) now passes himself off as an exorcist of evil spirits. To bolster his facade, he claims his "special" gift is the result of a car accident that killed his wife. But what he does not count on is more people dying in the small town where he lives. As he tries to piece together the supernatural mystery of these killings, he falls in love with the wife (Trini Alvarado) of one of the victims and deals with a crazy FBI agent (Jeffrey Combs).

Cast & Crew

Michael J. Fox
Frank Bannister
Trini Alvarado
Dr. Lucy Lynskey
Peter Dobson
Ray Lynskey
John Astin
The Judge
Jeffrey Combs
Milton Dammers
Dee Wallace
Patricia Ann Bradley
Jake Busey
Johnny Charles Bartlett
Jim Fyfe
Stuart, Bannister's Ghostly Assistant
Troy Evans
Sheriff Walt Perry
Robert Zemeckis
Executive Producer
Danny Elfman
Original Music
Alun Bollinger
Cinematographer
Jamie Selkirk
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for The Frighteners

Critic Reviews for The Frighteners

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (14)

  • [Michael J.] Fox seems to be trying to get hip in the movies, and he's lost his way here.

    August 23, 2017 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Story was originally conceived as an episode of "Tales From the Crypt," and that is perhaps what it should have remained, as the thinness of the conceit shows throughout, painfully so in the first half.

    March 26, 2009

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • At times the relentless special effects and tangled plotting veer towards visual and narrative overkill, but the final tonal swerve is shocking and effective.

    January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Nigel Floyd

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The actors can't keep the film's mood from verging on hysteria as the story roams all over the map. "The Frighteners" has flitted everywhere, even to heaven and hell, before it's over.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/5
  • Quote not available.

    April 12, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
    Globe and Mail
    Top Critic
  • Full of special effects, but still strangely 'indie', the movie has a unique sensibility ...

    April 17, 2001 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Ben Falk

    BBC.com
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Frighteners

  • Jun 18, 2020
    Has maybe not aged flawlessly, but it's very silly and very involved in a good kind of way. Kind of feels like a spoof but I'm honestly not sure what of, so I think that it's maybe just a light toned take on some pretty dark subject matter. It's been about 20 years since I last watched The Frighteners and I think I could probably go about that long before I watch it again, but I still do think it's worthwhile.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • May 11, 2016
    Competent filmmaking by professionals (which is to say that the thinness of the plot is neatly covered over by CGI extravagance), despite that it wallows in cartoony humor too often. Eric Stoltz dodged this bullet I think.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2014
    Before he began the masonry on Middle Earth, Peter Jackson was renowned for his edgy New Zealand B-movies like 'Bad Taste' and 'Dead Alive'. His first foray into mainstream was 'The Frighteners' and it is an unsung masterpiece. In a conventional chiller-comedy, Frank Bannister (an utterly charismatic Michael J. Fox) would be a mendacious huckster preying on the superstitions of his clientele. The cunning twist is that Frank is a bilking blowhard but he actually does possess a foothold in the world of the supernatural and his accomplices are the poltergeists haunting his customers. The improvisational banter between Frank and his cohorts (Chi McBride and Jim Fyfe) is mischievous but John Astin a.k.a. Gomez Adams is a firecracker as The Judge (a necrophilia joke with a museum mummy is rowdily pushing-the-envelope). The ectoplasmic special effects by the WETA LIMITED company are state-of-the-art (the scythe-wielding Grim Reaper villain slinks with gangly purpose while he squeezes the hearts of his victims). Eccentric horror movie maven Jeffrey Combs is introduced later in the film as a deranged, prattling detective with swastika-etched scars and his delivery of "what did he do Frank? Piss on your hush puppies?" is gut-bustingly funny. Danny Elfman's score is a gothic accompaniment to the bells-and-whistles. If any late-90's movie can be lovingly compared to 'Ghostbusters' in its pursuit of both guffaws and scares, 'The Frighteners' is a terrifically resplendent successor.
    Cory T Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2013
    This movie is what would happen if Evil Dead 2 and Ghostbusters had a drunken, passionate night of lovemaking. This would be the result of that lovemaking. This movie certainly has its tonal issues and a lackluster climax, but it's still a lot of fun and it certainly reminds me a lot of the Evil Dead 2 in some of its silly moments, and this movie does have plenty. Unfortunately, I did find the whole experience to be a little disappointing. Like I said, the movie does have it's silly moments, and many funny characters, Dammers for example was a really entertaining character. But it's never really consistently funny or scary. The movie jumps back and forth between serious and funny like it's nothing, and I found that to be problematic because I never knew how to look at the movie. Is it a scary movie with some light comedic touches or is it a comedy with some horror? I think in this movie the horror undercuts the comedy and vice versa. It's not like The Evil Dead 2 where both elements can coexist and actually end up working together to make the movie an incredible experience. I don't think this script is as focused as it could've been, which is why the horror and the comedy don't really coexist that well. But the movie is still quite entertaining with a good cast, and it has some pretty clever use of special effects. Of course, since the movie is almost 20 years old then it means that it looks a bit outdated, but there's still some really cool scenes here. Another problem is that the climax of the film was really unsatisfying. Unsatisfying in the sense that they pretty much rush through it to get to the finale, almost as if they forgot that they had a limited time span to tell their story. It was also unsatisfying to see Frank Bannister, after dying, being sent down back to earth just so they could have the stereotypical happy ending with Frank falling in love with Lucy. I thought that was really lame. It's not like the movie was depressing or anything that Frank dying would've really changed how you felt about the movie. So that liberal use of deus ex machina was pretty lame. Still, the movie's entertaining with some really funny moments and some cool special effects. Even if it's a little disappointing in some regards, I had fun watching this movie. It should've been better than it was, but still good;.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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