The Frighteners, 1996
Director: Peter Jackson
Availability: Easy (available on a crappy DVD from Universal)

Before Peter Jackson was directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he made a name for himself by directing such sickies as Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and his gore masterpiece Dead/Alive (aka Braindead). But, in 1996 he teamed up with a big studio (Universal) and a big name (Michael J. Fox) to put together one hell of a fun ghost story.

Fox plays a low-rent investigator that helps rid houses of their haunts. No one realizes, though, that he’s been working with the ghosts to run a scam on innocent victims. However, his ability to communicate with the dead and see death, as it is, stops being fun when he realizes that he’s being made aware of people’s deaths before they happen. Much hilarity (and horror!) ensues with some great guest appearances by John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, and R. Lee Ermey (playing the same drill seargent role he played in Full Metal Jacket… except dead).

Normally, I’m not a fan of CGI effects, but Jackson and crew did a great job with them on The Frighteners. If I remember correctly, at the time this was released, it held the distinction of having the most CGI-generated footage of any movie to date. Unlike most other modern CGI-driven horror, though, the computer effects only help, not hinder.

The Universal DVD is bare-bones as can be, without even a commentary. Hopefully with the popularity of Jackson’s mainstream success (Lord of the Rings), we can expect a great special edition in the near future. After all, the Laserdisc version is supposedly spectacular, sporting a—get this—4 1/2 hour documentary! Wowza. Definitely worth a rental now, though.