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The Frighteners

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . G . PAL


One of the things the film industry today is missing from that of the 80's is the horror movie (especially the tacky ones). There's a distinct lack of movies where some guy in an unconvincing costume and make-up is running around terrorizing a bunch of unconvincing actors who die one by one in obvious and predictable manners. They were some of the funniest films ever to have been made (especially the direct to video stuff.) Now it seems the horror genre has dropped into obscurity, with even the direct to video market not seeing a great deal of action.

Fortunately, there are a number of notable exceptions, with Frighteners being one of the better examples (even without the gore and cheap effects). Peter Jackson (director of Brain Dead and Bad Taste) understands the use of comedy as a contrast to horror, and demonstrates this point well during the film, mixing witty dialogue and amusing situations with the scarier aspects of the story.

There is somewhat of a mystery element to the film, so I'll try and keep the plot synopsis fairly light. Ever since a near death experience caused by a car crash in which his wife died, Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) has been able to see and hear ghosts - in fact, he lives and works with some. Bannister locates a likely target and sends his ghostly pals in to haunt the house so that he can come along and "exorcise" the ghosts for a tidy sum. It seems like an easy way to make a living, however the township has been experiencing an unusually large number of healthy people dying from heart attacks, and suspicion falls upon Bannister. To quote the critics, what follows is a "rollercoaster ride of laughs and screams" as Bannister attempts to defeat the real cause of the sudden epidemic.


One of the notable points of the this film was that there were over 400 visual effects used, and all of them were done in New Zealand. From a technical standpoint, Hollywood had nothing to do with this movie, and that's quite an achievement when you see how good this film looks. Fortunately, the transfer to DVD has not lost any of that quality.

Colours are vibrant, and black levels are strong and well defined, with edges being clear without being too sharp. All the ghosts in the film are depicted in a translucent gray scale, so any flaws in the transfer would've stuck out like a sore thumb.


Presented in Dolby 5.1 the soundtrack comes across well. I don't recall much use of the rears, but then there weren't a great deal of scenes in the film that called for their use. Dialogue was clear, with no synching problems, and the sub-woofer was used well, without being used excessively (keep an ear out for the spectral machine guns :)

The only real audio complaint I have is more on the creative than the technical side. The closing credits features the Blue Oyster Cult song Don't Fear the Reaper. Unfortunately, it's only a cover version, and sounds vastly inferior to the original. Why, oh why couldn't you have gotten the rights to use the original, Mr Jackson? It sounds so much better.


The "standard" extras apply:

  • US Theatrical Trailer
  • Cast and Director Filmographies
  • Production Notes - There's actually a decent amount of interesting information here on how the film was made, including comments from the cast and crew.


I absolutely loved this film, and the DVD does a great job of portraying and preserving it. Even my housemate enjoyed it, and he's not a horror or Michael J. Fox fan like myself.

Don't let the "horror" classification of the film put you off - it's more of a 60's horror than an 80's horror with less gore and more spookiness. Probably not one for the kids, but teens and up ought to enjoy it.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=274
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