19. The Frighteners was a big stepping stone for director Peter Jackson, as this was the first movie of his to feature extensive CG and visual effects work (courtesy of the then-expanding Weta Digital), which would ultimately lead him to his next big project, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s also one of Michael J. Fox’s last movies in a leading role, as he would soon semi-retire from movie making due to his struggle with Parkinson’s. This movie is so good in places that it’s easy to forgive its shortcomings. The CG effects still hold up reasonably well for something produced in the mid-’90s, and even the more cartoonish-looking effects seem appropriate, given the horror-comedy atmosphere of the plot. Michael J. Fox is also perfect for the role of Frank Bannister, a “psychic investigator” with the ability to interact with ghosts, who he then uses to scam people out of money. The movie isn’t flawless; it runs a bit long for something like this (especially the Director’s Cut, which adds a handful of extra scenes but hits the two-hour mark as a result), and though Fox’s ghost pals are clearly there for comic relief, they’re not quite as funny as they could have been. In addition, horror vet Jeffrey Combs shows up halfway through as a crazed FBI agent, but after a few amusing scenes he quickly becomes an annoyance. Still, The Frighteners is a blast if you can dig the idea of a supernatural thriller crossed with an offbeat, macabre and occasionally screwball comedy. As Leonard Maltin put it, “definitely not for all tastes but a wild time for those who get into it.” 3.5/5
Archive for scream
Last week while snowed in, I re-watched Scream 3. Why? Because I hate myself. While the first two movies were heavily enjoyable, Scream 3 dropped the ball, ending the popular ’90s horror trilogy with a whimper. With news of a fourth installment/revival making the rounds over the past year or so, it seems that Scream 4 is actually gonna happen, with Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette reportedly set to return, and Wes Craven in talks to direct. But it’s the script by series creator/writer Kevin Williamson (who skipped Scream 3) that gives this one a real shot at being decent. With the last one still unfortunately fresh in my mind, here’s 10 things the next one should do without:
1. NO CHEAP KILLER REVEAL
At the end of Scream 3, we find out the killer is some whiny douchebag nobody really cared about in the first place. Despite none of it being hinted at beforehand, we’re suddenly told this guy is (surprise!) Neve Campbell’s illegitimate half-brother, who takes his revenge after being abandoned by their mother years ago since he was, you know, an accident ‘n all. I think it was during this asshat’s long-winded speech at the end where I involuntarily started making the jerk-off motion with my hand. Part of the fun of these movies is trying to figure out who the killer is; the next Scream should take a cue from the original, and have the killer(s) turn out to be a supporting character that played an active role in the rest of the movie… not some cheap cop-out.
2. NO MELODRAMATIC NEVE CAMPBELL BACK-STORY
We no longer give a shit about her dead mother, nor do we want to see any more of Neve Campbell being extra emo because everything is somehow tied to her. If you’re gonna bring her back, make someone else the emotional centerpiece of the movie for a change.
3. NO EXCESSIVE RED HERRINGS
In a “whodunit?” murder mystery, naturally multiple characters will be made to look suspicious, in order to give the impression that the killer could really be anyone, and keep you guessing until the very end. Scream 3 went overboard with this, to the point where nearly every goddamn character was given their own suspicious moment, sometimes very clumsily.
4. NO SCI-FI VOICE CHANGER FROM THE FUTURE
In what was probably an attempt by the filmmakers to add an extra kick to the proceedings, Scream 3‘s killer was fitted with a nifty voice changer, that could instantly (and perfectly) mimic the other character’s voices. Of course the killer uses this to trick his victims and set people against each other, but how this was possible is a case for the WTF files. Cut the bullshit and give Ghostface his regular voice changer back.
5. NO PATRICK PANSIE DEMPSEY
Several years before going on to play McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey co-starred in Scream 3, in the role of Worthless Detective. Seriously – the guy spends all movie alternating between not doing shit and not doing dick, and for his encore he gets punched to the ground by the killer (or something to that effect). He then cheerily pops up at the end with a cast on his arm, when he really deserved a body bag. Don’t invite him back.
6. NO MORE RANDY, EITHER.
Sorry folks. We all loved Randy, and I even thought his little video cameo in Scream 3 was one of the movie’s few highlights. But let’s face it – he got the business end of a knife in Scream 2, and one posthumous appearance is enough; don’t turn him into Tupac.
7. AND FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, NO MORE CREED
I like Creed, though I suppose that’s a story for another entry. I also didn’t mind when they were made music directors of the Scream 3 soundtrack. But does their poster really need to be awkwardly hanging on the wall when Neve Campbell is walking through her old bedroom on the movie set? Nothing undercuts a suspenseful scene like seeing a random, shirtless Scott Stapp in the background. And speaking of movie sets…
8. ENOUGH WITH THE STAB MOVIES
Yes, it was a hoot when the opening of Scream 2 took place at the premiere of a movie called Stab, which was the “movie version” of the events of the first Scream. The third one took it even further, being set in Hollywood during the production of Stab 3, and having each of the main stars running into their Hollywood doppelgängers. By about halfway through (I’m being charitable here), the movie-within-a-movie gag started to get annoying. I realize this is a horror series founded on tongue-in-cheek humor, but enough with the Hollywood in-jokes.
9. AND STOP WITH THE CAMEOS!
Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Carrie Fisher, and Jay & Silent Bob – all popped up at some point in cute cameo roles, and hey, most of them were pretty funny. Let’s leave it at that, eh?
10. TRY TO MAKE IT A LITTLE SCARY THIS TIME
Scream 3 had about as much suspense as an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Maybe that’s because Wes Craven was more interested in making movies about inner-city kids learning to play the violin at the time, but here’s hoping he’s a bit more revved up for this next one.