Jump to content



Sign up for a free account!

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests to win things like this Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote and you won't get the popup ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Frighteners - Peter Jackson's Director's Cut (RECOMMENDED)



This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
52 replies to this topic

#1 of 53 Steve Tannehill

Steve Tannehill

    Producer

  • 5,450 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 06 1997
  • Real Name:Steve Tannehill
  • LocationDFW

Posted December 11 2005 - 05:43 AM

Posted Image
The Frighteners - Peter Jackson's Director's Cut
Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
Year: 1996/98 (2005 Release)
Rated: R
Aspect Ratio: 2.35x1, enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English DD 5.1; Commentary
Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; French and Spanish Subtitles
Time: 2:02:28
Disc Format: DS/DL (DVD-18)
Layer Switch: Approx 1:20:43
Case Style: Keep Case with textured slipcover


The Feature:
Peter Jackson believes in ghosts. One morning while his partner Fran Walsh was in the other room, Jackson saw the floating apparition of a woman locked in a scream. When he mentioned it to Walsh, she had seen it several months earlier.

Flash forward to the making of Heavenly Creatures, which was to be Jackson's breakout success and exit from the splatter gore genre (which includes my personal favorite, Meet the Feebles). Jackson and Walsh wrote an outline of a ghost story and submitted it to their agent--who then submitted it to producer Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis, who was shopping for scripts for Tales from the Crypt, thought this story had more potential than a segment on a TV show, so he met with Jackson and Walsh. They pitched a more developed story, and The Frighteners was born, with Zemeckis as Executive Producer.

The Frighteners tells the story of Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) who had a near-death experience and can see ghosts. He partners up with these ghouls to stage paranormal activities, then he offers his psychic and ghost busting services for a fee. For the most part it is a harmless scam, but by being able to communicate with spirits, he can actually be of service to some people. Of course, he walks a fine line of decorum when he crashes funerals to hand off business cards, but we soon forget about that when he crashes his through a nice picket fence and clobbers some garden gnomes. (It seems that Frank is not a very good driver...)

But he is sly... when the owner of the damaged yard, a shallow but pumped up jock named Ray (Peter Dobson), threatens to sue Frank, the ghost buddies come in and scare up enough business for Frank so that the debt is canceled. It is then that Frank meets Ray's wife Lucy (Trini Alvarado), a doctor who has been dealing with some of the town's more disturbed patients (the Bradleys, in particular--a scary old lady, and her daughter played by Dee Wallace-Stone).

Frank's quiet little town of Fairwater does have more than its share of ghosts, and a tainted history of a killing spree that left twelve people dead in a hospital. The perfectly evil Johnny Bartlett (Jake Busey) is sent to the electric chair for his part in the shootings, and his girlfriend--the Bradley daughter--serves time in prison. Years later the Bradley daughter has been released from prison and is all but held captive by her mother in a house adjacent to the abandoned hospital.

More recently, perfectly healthy people in Fairwater have been dying under strange circumstances. This is made even more mysterious when Frank can predict the people who are going to die by seeing a glowing number cut into their forehead. Lucy's husband Ray is one of these deaths, and Frank gets involved with Lucy. Soon, it becomes clear (to Frank, at least) that the specter of death is on Fairwater.

But is Frank actually a serial killer who is responsible for 28 murders? A quirky FBI agent, played deliciously by the Reanimator himself Jeffrey Combs, thinks so. He pursues Frank relentlessly, and interferes when Frank and Lucy are trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Frighteners starts out funny and evolves into light horror--not quite as outlandish or gory as the hard-R Shaun of the Dead, but suspenseful all the same. It is populated with a variety of funny characters, especially Frank's partner ghosts, and the drill instructor ghost in the grave yard played by the great R. Lee Ermey. Michael J. Fox is perfectly cast in his role. The movie never takes itself too seriously.

Even though The Frighteners is rated R, it was intended to be PG-13. For some reason that only the MPAA knows, the excessive use of a shotgun--just shooting holes through doors and walls--was enough to push the rating past PG-13 to R. (The higher rating also allowed Jackson to re-shoot one scene with a little more of an edge to it, but if you have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is no worse. In fact, I showed this movie to a mixed audience including a 12-year-old, and he loved it.)

When The Frighteners was originally released, it had a running time of approximately 110 minutes. For a special edition on laserdisc, Peter Jackson set a new standard by not only extending his movie by 14 minutes, but by preparing a thorough documentary on the making of his film. How thorough was this documentary?

Well, if you have seen the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, you know that hours of supplements are indeed possible. But back in 1998 when the Signature Collection laserdisc was released, The Frighteners set a high water mark with a 4.5 hour original documentary, written and directed by Jackson himself. This had never been done, and I kicked myself for not getting the laserdisc after it quickly went out-of-print.

But patience is a virtue. Seven years after the laserdisc release, we are finally able to see the extended cut of the film and the complete content of the 4.5 hour documentary. And here's the kicker: if you act fast, you can get a copy of The Frighteners with a free movie ticket to Peter Jackson's King Kong. This "Hollywood Movie Money" is good for up to $10.50, and is valid from December 14th, 2004 to January 1st, 2006.

Any time you can get two movies for the price of one, that is a win-win to me (and from the reviews of King Kong thus far, it is a big win). And it goes without saying that I consider this edition of The Frighteners to be a must-have.

The Feature: 4 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Video:
The Frighteners is presented in 2.35x1 widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 displays. The visual effects, which were cutting edge CGI work in the day, are still impressive. The color palate ranges from grainy black and white news footage, to hyper-realistic flashbacks, to darkened rooms of an abandoned hospital, to the floral beauty of a hidden garden. Black level is solid, especially during the night scenes. I detected traces of edge enhancement, though, during a few of the daylight sequences.

Video: 4 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Sound:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is quite aggressive. There were many directional surround effects and some subwoofer activity to keep things interesting. Even the closing music had surround activity (that made those viewing the movie just a little uneasy--it was almost like a TV was on in the other room). Danny Elfman's score was great, as well.

Sound: 4.5 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Extras:

The original Signature Collection laserdisc was legendary for its 4.5 hour making-of documentary. This has been ported over to the DVD in its entirety, although it has been reconfigured slightly to accommodate disc space.

The DVD is presented as a dual-sided, dual-layered (DVD-18) disc. I would have preferred two single-sided discs, but I had no playback issues with this disc.

On Side A of the DVD, in addition to the extended movie, there is a feature-length commentary track with Peter Jackson. The movie itself is also started with a newly recorded introduction with Peter Jackson, where he explains the importance of The Frighteners to him.

Storyboards (45:36) are presented to music and narration by Peter Jackson. This was part of the original documentary. I like how you do not have to push the button dozens of times to advance forward--rather, the storyboards are turned into a mini-movie of their own.

Rounding out Side A is the theatrical trailer (2:10).

Side B continues The Making of the Frighteners with another newly recorded introduction by Peter Jackson and the remaining 3:43:38 of the content of the original Signature Collection laserdisc release (the 4.5 hour figure is the sum total of the storyboard segment and the trailer).

This making of documentary is very thorough, with discussions ranging from script development, visual effects, a deleted sequence, rehearsal footage, and a very funny blooper reel (which, ironically, has more R-rated language than the movie itself).

I am going to have to watch more of this (time does not permit me to view the whole thing, sorry) but what I did watch was very informative and entertaining. It is like getting a master class on a 5-inch disc.

Extras: 5 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


In Conclusion:
The Frighteners is a fun comedy horror flick that set a new standard for supplements back its day, and is still great by today's standard.

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Recommended

In Current Release




Display calibrated by Steve Martin at http://www.lionav.com/

#2 of 53 Mike_S

Mike_S

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 177 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 01 2000

Posted December 11 2005 - 06:07 AM

That's a great review, Steve. I bought this one (with the Kong movie ticket inside) Like you, I drooled over the LD set with all of the supplements, so I'm glad to (finally)pick up the DVD version. Very quirky and very entertaining.

-Mike
My Home Theater

#3 of 53 Stephen Orr

Stephen Orr

    Screenwriter

  • 1,105 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 14 1999

Posted December 11 2005 - 06:16 AM

I loved this movie and picked up the DC last week. Haven't watched the movie yet, but am about 2/3 through the documentary. Kong ticket is tacked to my phone board, waiting until the 23rd... (birthday, waiting for my son to come home for the holidays)

#4 of 53 Dome Vongvises

Dome Vongvises

    Lead Actor

  • 8,174 posts
  • Join Date: May 13 2001

Posted December 11 2005 - 06:35 AM

Sold!

#5 of 53 Daniel-M

Daniel-M

    Second Unit

  • 333 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 09 2005

Posted December 11 2005 - 07:53 AM

Region 2 gets a three singlesided discs and DTS, i think i will go for that

#6 of 53 John Swarce

John Swarce

    Second Unit

  • 475 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 27 2003

Posted December 11 2005 - 01:17 PM

The link on the homepage in the Reviews section does not bring you here! It sends you to the lasers edge website!

John
"Things you own end up owning you" --Fight Club

You are what you are when no one is looking...

#7 of 53 Steve Tannehill

Steve Tannehill

    Producer

  • 5,450 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 06 1997
  • Real Name:Steve Tannehill
  • LocationDFW

Posted December 11 2005 - 01:25 PM

Curious, thanks... we'll get that fixed.

- Steve

#8 of 53 CraigF

CraigF

    Screenwriter

  • 2,312 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 20 2002
  • Real Name:Craig
  • LocationToronto area, Canada

Posted December 11 2005 - 02:33 PM

A couple of comments and a query from the "other" thread:

I like the way the new scenes were added essentially seamlessly to the theatrical cut, very well done.

People seem to have had good luck with the DVD-18, I think only one problem was reported, at the layer change.

Steve: did you notice that the LFE sometimes sounded muddy and distorted? I have never heard LFE sound quite that "bad". I'm wondering if somebody with the older TC release or the laserdisc can comment if it sounded similar. For all I know, maybe it's meant to sound like that, kind of an ugly menacing tone.

#9 of 53 DavidofLondon

DavidofLondon

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 97 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 13 2004

Posted December 11 2005 - 09:26 PM

I watched the movie and listened to the commentary track (on the R1 DVD) yesterday. I was tempted to wait for the R2 three disk version but R1 was cheaper (even allowing for shipping to the UK) so I went with that.

I agree with the review but I noticed something while listening to the commentary. Peter Jackson is chatting away describing various things, talking fairly constantly throughout the commentary. Then at around 1 hour 16 minutes (sorry didn't note exact time). The commentary went silent, for a good couple of minutes. It was long enough that I wondered if my settings had screwed up and I'd changed to the non-commentary view of the movie. Then just as I was about to check my settings Peter started talking again.

I wonder if he popped out for a coffee/tea break and forgot to pause the recording?

#10 of 53 Chuck Mayer

Chuck Mayer

    Lead Actor

  • 7,966 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 06 2001
  • Real Name:Chuck Mayer

Posted December 12 2005 - 03:08 AM

Own the LD, but I'll purchase this. DVD is better to maintain, though I also would have preferred two discs (having a changer myself).

The Doc is a master class. Excellent material. The new scenes add to the film in simple ways, making it a bit funnier.

Good SE,
Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#11 of 53 Sten F

Sten F

    Second Unit

  • 284 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 19 2003

Posted December 12 2005 - 03:16 AM

Quote:
Region 2 gets a three singlesided discs and DTS, i think i will go for that.

You might want to go for the German 4-Disc set, which is best version available.
It´s nice to be important, but it´s more important to be nice.

#12 of 53 TheLongshot

TheLongshot

    Producer

  • 4,119 posts
  • Join Date: May 12 2000

Posted December 12 2005 - 04:02 AM

Except that it is in PAL...

Jason

#13 of 53 Gordon McMurphy

Gordon McMurphy

    Producer

  • 3,530 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 03 2002

Posted December 12 2005 - 07:25 AM

Apart from the comedy, is this film genuinely creepy, even outright scary in places, ie. moments of shock? Or is it just a goofy, fun kind of movie?

#14 of 53 Dome Vongvises

Dome Vongvises

    Lead Actor

  • 8,174 posts
  • Join Date: May 13 2001

Posted December 12 2005 - 09:20 AM

Quote:
Apart from the comedy, is this film genuinely creepy, even outright scary in places, ie. moments of shock? Or is it just a goofy, fun kind of movie?


A little from column A and a little from column B.

#15 of 53 Dave Mack

Dave Mack

    Producer

  • 4,665 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 28 2002

Posted December 12 2005 - 10:56 AM

I loved it when I saw it on opening day but I could tell that 1/2 the audience didn't know WHAT was going on tone-wise. But I also loved DEAD ALIVE and Heavenly Creatures...

Posted Image

#16 of 53 Vincent_P

Vincent_P

    Screenwriter

  • 1,696 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 13 2003

Posted December 12 2005 - 11:12 AM

Quote:
I noticed something while listening to the commentary. Peter Jackson is chatting away describing various things, talking fairly constantly throughout the commentary. Then at around 1 hour 16 minutes... The commentary went silent... It was long enough that I wondered if my settings had screwed up and I'd changed to the non-commentary view of the movie. Then just as I was about to check my settings Peter started talking again.


It could be that he discussed something that the legal department at Universal objected to, so it was removed from the commentary. That happens a lot.

Vincent

#17 of 53 Dale MA

Dale MA

    Supporting Actor

  • 946 posts
  • Join Date: May 22 2004

Posted December 12 2005 - 11:27 AM

Quote:
Apart from the comedy, is this film genuinely creepy, even outright scary in places, ie. moments of shock? Or is it just a goofy, fun kind of movie?

It's kind of like a really dark Ghostbusters with scary bits thrown in for good measure Posted Image

I can't wait to get my R2 3-discer!

#18 of 53 Gordon McMurphy

Gordon McMurphy

    Producer

  • 3,530 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 03 2002

Posted December 12 2005 - 11:41 AM

Thanks, guys. I'll try a rental.

#19 of 53 CraigF

CraigF

    Screenwriter

  • 2,312 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 20 2002
  • Real Name:Craig
  • LocationToronto area, Canada

Posted December 12 2005 - 12:17 PM

Has noone else with a sub watched this? Everyone thinks the LFE is "just peachy", worth 4.5/5 for sound?? Of course it's just opinion, but 4.5/5 doesn't leave much room for all the good dts soundtracks with great and undistorted LFE. Oh well, I get much more bothered by distorted sound than an occasional glimpse of EE, but probably not typical here (I come from the audio side to HT). I spent several hours dicking with my sub after watching this disc JIC I had mis-adjusted something since an extremely rigorous re-setup 6 months ago...and it's on the disc. It's the only issue I have with the disc, otherwise great content and at a good price too.

#20 of 53 Mark Lucas

Mark Lucas

    Second Unit

  • 497 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 03 2005

Posted December 12 2005 - 01:42 PM

I think maybe the LFE channel clips in places. I think the WSR review of the LD noted it but I'm not sure. I do remember the DTS LD got a 5+ though.


Back to DVD, Blu-ray & Digital Reviews



Forum Nav Content I Follow