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Haunted Movie Review:
The Frighteners (1996)

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Peter Jackson


Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson


Michael J. Fox … Frank Bannister
Trini Alvarado … Dr. Lucy Lynskey
Peter Dobson … Ray Lynskey
John Astin … The Judge
Jake Busey … Johnny Bartlett
Jeffrey Combs … Milton Dammers
R. Lee Ermey … Sgt. Hiles


Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) is blessed – or cursed – with the ability to see ghosts. He has, consequently, gone into business as a psychic investigator.  But it hasn’t worked out so well. Fortunately, Lucy and Ray Lynskey (Trini Alvarado and Peter Dobson) are having trouble with a poltergeist in their new house, providing Frank with the opportunity to drum up a little business.

If flying objects in their house were Lucy and Ray’s only problem, everyone would be much happier. Alas, such is not the case, because perfectly healthy people have started dying from heart attacks. The cause may involve the town hospital, which was the site of a mass murder. The murderer was executed, but his crazy lover still lives in the town.

Aided by his astral assistants  (including John Astin), Frank must rise to the occasion to stem the tide of uncanny deaths.

Good Scenes and Bad

  • Favorite Scenes: The opening scenes take place in the girlfriend’s creepy old house. The evil entity chases his old girlfriend around the house, seen as a big lump under the floor, under the wallpaper, etc, breaking dishes, furniture, lamps and causing havoc as the chase proceeds. He finally catches his old girlfriend by the throat and tries to choke her. He stops when the equally creepy, slightly unhinged mother of the girl shoots at the lump on the stairs, releasing the girl from his grasp. This opening sets the tone for the whole movie. The scenes when Michael & cohorts take on the evil entity are scary and exciting. Also, the final action scenes in the old mental hospital are involving, scary, and finally uplifting.
  • Least Favorite Scenes: The weakest parts of the script, which could’ve used a rewrite, were the scenes between the inspector and Michael J. Fox. Thankfully, these scenes weren’t a major hindrance to the enjoyment of the rest of the film.

Thoughts from the team

The movie is quite scary, thanks to the special effects, creepy music by Danny Elfman, a basically good script, great action sequences and the acting of Jake Busey, who has a good time being the evil entity.

Michael J. Fox does a great job and is very believable. Trini Alvarado & Fox have great chemistry and work well together.

The Real Ghost Hunters’ Perspective

The Frighteners gives some interesting theories about psychic ability, characteristics of ghosts and how much damage an evil entity can do. In reality, most ghosts or spirits can’t hurt the living, though in some cases they have done so through possessing the living, pushing, scaring the living or choking them. However, while demonic entities have been reported to cause a lot of damage to the unlucky soul they possess, they don’t generally go around killing others in a killing spree.

The visual depiction of the evil entity traveling under the house’s carpet, coming up through the wall, so you can see his usually invisible form and pushing up the wallpaper are really scary, though in reality, most ghosts are seen going through the walls, as apparitions, wispy forms or vapor mists, as they don’t have a physical body that could show a form under a rug, a bathroom wall or wall paper.

In reality, Ghosts/Spirits are felt by the living as a cold, unseen presence, that can give off hostile, even evil or peaceful vibes that can affect the living’s emotions and can make a lot of scary noise and move items around; sometimes violently.

The ghosts/spirits seen by Frank are glowing apparitions that look just like they did in life, as some apparitions have done before the living. ( IN – Willard Library )


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