The Frighteners (1996)

“The Frighteners” is the kind of movie that maybe sounds 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 great, but things don’t quite seem 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 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). Luckily, Jackson has a knack for madcap energy and a ballsy approach to horror-comedy (especially for a studio movie), and the special effects look great for the mid-90s. It’s the sort of movie that could easily be re-adapted into a TV show and get a chance to deliver on its premise, but as it is, it’s overstuffed but entertaining enough.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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