The Frighteners

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 7/17/96)

By Monica Sullivan

I'm trying to think of a recent scary comedy which was actually (a) scary or (b) funny. Peter Jackson's new movie "The Frighteners" isn't either, really. We know from the lightness of tone that the major characters are never in mortal danger, so we don't have to worry about them. But then, there's this weird house inhabited by a spooky old lady and her strange daughter (Julianna McCarthy and Dee Wallace) and they both seem to be playing it straight. And then there's Gary Busey's son Jake who, with the right roles could become one of the great screen ghouls of the 21st century.

I guess one problem may be the casting of Michael J. Fox as the charlatan protagonist. Now 35, Fox has derailed too many projects with his lack of adult magnetism and/or density: sometimes his weaknesses as an actor can be camouflaged by a strong supporting cast, but here, Fox acts like he is making one movie and everyone else appears to be in another. Co-star Trini Alvarado does her best and the special effects department comes up with the usual big & expensive supernatural suspects for a summer movie. But Fox, who was probably a key figure in the negotiations between Jackson & Universal Studios, just ain't the best thing that ever happened to a suspense thriller. Dozens of more promising names come to mind.

Filmed entirely in New Zealand, "The Frighteners" will attract and disappoint admirers of Jackson's cult films. As for Michael J. Fox fans, well, they must pretty much know what to expect by now. "The Frighteners" opens nationally this week.

Okay. Now let me tell you about a movie that will really scare you. By far, the most disturbing movie playing this week is Rafael Zielinski's "Fun". The past and the future are in colour here, the present is in grim black and white. The protagonists are two very young girls whom we see sharing confidences and cuddling after spending the most fun day they've ever had together. What's their idea of fun? Going to malls, hanging out, playing games, ringing doorbells and yelling at the occupants. Oh, and brutally stabbing to death a sweet little old lady who tries to help them. Why? Counselor Leslie Hope and journalist William R. Moses try to find out during the course of this 95M character study, scripted by playwright James Bosley in collaboration with the director. Renee Humphrey and Alicia Witt are remarkable as the troubled kids who manipulate their interrogators and resist every effort from the adults who attempt to help them understand their crime. This one may well give you nightmares: it certainly gave me plenty.

Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan

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