The Frighteners

The Frighteners ★★★★

I hope I'm not ordering burgers in front of anyone's sacred cows by saying this, but I think The Frighteners might be the most entertaining movie Peter Jackson has ever made. The premise is terrific: Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), a deeply troubled man who blames himself for an accident that took his wife's life, acquires through his trauma the ability to see ghosts and commune with the dead. For a time, he parlays this gift into a huckster-ish exorcism business, but when residents of his small town start dying in manners resembling a decades-old mass-murder, Frank has to take the high road and use his skills to save the people he cares about.

Fox has absolutely never been better, and it's good to see him display some range beyond Marty McFly and characters of that ilk. The supporting cast is just crazy good too - Dee Wallace and Jake Busey are perfectly cast as what we'll just refer to as a May-December romance that used to be May-May... John Astin and Chi McBride are a couple of ghosts who help Bannister along the way. Trini Alvarado plays a doctor, and for a time the only person in town who believes Frank's tales of spooky goings-on. Finally, and perhaps my favorite of all is Jeffery Combs in one of his greatest roles ever, that of the FBI's paranormal specialist Milton Dammers. Combs steals pretty much every scene he appears in and his lines are infinitely quotable. I crack up whenever I hear his "My body is a roadmap of pain" speech or when he thinks he's foiled an assassination attempt with his a-ha moment - "I'm wearing a LEAD BREASTPLATE!!!" This is good entertainment, it really is. Although the movie features some almost 20-year old CGI, it, along with the story has aged gracefully and maintains a timeless quality that keeps everything feeling relevant.

Hopefully, now that he's got all the trolls and warlocks out of his system, Jackson can get going again with some pictures about and for humans.

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