We begin part three with:
The Frighteners (1996)
I saw this in a theatre when it was released in 1996, presumably due to one of the following facts:
- I'd started working at a movie theatre that summer and was still in see-everything-due-to-it-suddenly-being-free mode;
- I was intrigued by the Back the Future connection provided by star Michael J. Fox and producer Robert Zemeckis;
- I was intrigued by the presence of composer Danny Elfman;
- or, most likely, some combination of all of those factors.
I don't remember for sure, but I do remember being underwhelmed by the movie. Didn't hate it, just didn't really get much out of it. Granted, I wasn't into horror movies at that time (with a few exceptions, mostly in the form of Stephen King movies). I'd never seen any of Peter Jackson's stuff, and I had no idea who Jeffrey Combs was. So maybe it was that that threw me off.
I watched the movie again on DVD at some point after Jackson had been announced as the director for the upcoming trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings. Still didn't get much out of it, and that was the last time I saw it ... until now.
And doggone it, it's still not sticking to me.
It's not a bad movie. There's nothing -- with the possible exception of mildly dodgy (though decent for the era) CGI in a few places -- that I can really complain about. It just never quite amounts to anything. I've got a few notes about that:
- Michael J. Fox is fine. I'm not sure he was the right guy for the role, though. Could someone a little schlubbier and more pathetic have had a greater impact? Maybe. Fox is fine, he's just not inspired. He was inspired in Back to the Future; here, he's just ... fine. But you can do worse, for sure.
- Trini Alvarado is similarly fine in the lead female role. She looks like they wanted to cast Andi MacDowell, who proved to be unavailable, but she's lively and tenacious.
- Jeffrey Combs -- who, as I mentioned, I'd never seen in anything (though he was already a genre legend by this point) -- IS inspired as the FBI creep. I think he's doing what the movie wanted to be, but director Peter Jackson kind of kept his gloves on for most of the movie, possibly to its detriment. I think there was a darker and much stranger version of this movie that wanted to get out, and leaked out a little bit via Combs.
- Dee Wallace Stone is also quite good here. I mean, she always is, right? But she seems to relish getting to go full-tilt into crazytown toward the end. Un-fun fact: her husband, Christopher Stone, died of a heart attack while she was in New Zealand making this movie. Bear in mind, now, this is a movie about a string of unexplained deaths which come by what appears to be heart attacks. Creepily, Dee Wallace Stone's credit at the beginning is on screen while someone is talking about people being impacted by the unexplained spate of heart-attack deaths. This is something an editor ought to have avoided, methinks.
- The music by Danny Elfman sure does sound like music by Danny Elfman. This, too, fails to stick to me. This was around the point in time when Elfman began -- to my ears -- to lose a step and to forget how to write memorable themes. His score here is mostly sonic wallpaper. Again, it's not bad; it's just not memorable.
- Troy Evans -- who I think of from his small role in Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers -- plays another cop. He's fine.
- Jake Busey makes a fairly strong impression as the dead serial killer. Mass murderer? I'm going with serial killer.
- The backstory involves a mass shooting. You'd have a hard time getting that into a spookshow like this (one aimed at a wide audience) these days.
- There's a director's cut on the Blu-ray which runs an additional thirteen minutes. I didn't watch that, I watched the theatrical cut. However, at some indefinite point in the future, when I watch the bonus features, I'll give that director's cut a try. Due diligence and all.
For now, that's all I've got to say about The Frighteners, apart from this: it's one of those movies that I can't say I have any particular affection for, but which I don't begrudge anyone for loving, if they do indeed love it. And there must be people who do. I appear destined not to be one of them, but so be it.