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The Frighteners Review

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A psychic private detective who consorts with deceased souls becomes engaged in a mystery as members of the town community begin dying mysteriously.

★★★★

Having garnered such critical acclaim and respectability with Heavenly Creatures, New Zealand director Peter Jackson made a welcome return to the world of hectic horror hokum and delivered a deeply sick, weird and enjoyable romp.

Using his familiarity with a threesome of third-rate ghouls to haunt houses, Frank Bannister (Fox) is running a spook extermination scam clearing up the mess after the ghouls have scared everyone witless. However, a series of unexplained deaths — the victims popping their clogs after massive heart attacks — draws the law's attention to Bannister, and makes him wonder if he has anything to do with the spiralling mortality rate. In fact, the culprit is a "soultaker", an expensive looking piece of CGI, who reaches into people's chests to give their ticker a quick squeeze.

Thrown into the brew is a serial killer (Jake Busey), a nutty FBI agent (Combs), and a love interest in the form of recently widowed Lucy (Alvarado). Since Jackson was responsible for Bad Taste and the majestically sick Meet The Feebles, this may come as a shock to those who've only witnessed Heavenly Creatures.

But here he displays his talent for juxtaposing truly disturbing imagery (particularly in a graphical reconstructed newsreel sequence of a killing spree in a hospital) with light-hearted comedy in the form of the spook threesome. And anything which contributes to the reinvention of Michael J. Fox (who displays a couple of moments of depth that we've never seen before) is more than welcome.

Huge ghostly fun, and a fine achievement from the early days of CGI.