The Frighteners (1996)

Unfortunately, “The Frighteners” is the kind of movie that sounds much better on paper than it plays on screen. It’s a horror-comedy with “Ghostbusters” elements, starring Michael J. Fox and directed by Peter Jackson – it sounds like a winner, but nothing seems to come together. For starters, Fox’s performance is mostly joyless, and with little character development to help acclimatize the audience to him, he’s a humorless bore. Additionally, there are simply too many stories going on at once, and none of them get sufficient screen time: Fox’s supernatural compatriots, who help him stage hauntings to brand him as a “ghost hunter” of sorts, are poorly cast and barely used by the screenplay, and they’re a constant nuisance on screen. Additionally, there are several dangling subplots (like solving a decades-old mass murder, the present-day slayings of a town’s residents by a Death-like figure, an awkward investigator and his back story, as well as Fox’s love interest Trini Alvarado and her ghostly boyfriend, etc), and none of them are particularly interesting. While Jackson has a knack for madcap energy and a ballsy approach to horror-comedy, he seems out of his league here – the special effects get most of his attention, while the human interest gets forgotten along the way while the humor consistently fails to land. “The Frighteners” is the sort of movie that could easily be re-adapted into a horror-comedy television show and finally deliver on its premise, but as it is, it’s full of elements that should work well together but somehow each seem to undercooked and underwhelming.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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