Play

00:00

/

00:00

Full screen
Video quality

Low 0 MB

High 0 MB

HD 0 MB

Captions
Volume
Volume
Hero image for The Frighteners

The Frighteners

Film (Trailer) – 1996

M
Mature

A Perspective

After the critical and art-house success of Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson's next feature returned to the playful mix of comedy and horror that had made Jackson's name - only this time he was working on a larger scale, with Hollywood stars and backing.

Some audiences and critics weren't sure how to take the shift after he whet their arthouse appetites with Heavenly Creatures. But those who were familiar with Jackson's filmmaking roots were more receptive to the film's charms, particularly genre fans.

In a year (1996) that was noted for bloated, formulaic thrillers such as Twister and Independence Day, The Frighteners was praised for its originality and deft blending of genres. What starts out as a playful mix of slapstick and supernatural brouhaha, delivers a genuinely hair-raising finale. Nigel Floyd wrote in Time Out UK: "Once again, Jackson proves he's one of the most innovative filmmakers currently working in the fantasy genre."

Reception from local audiences mirrored the mixed worldwide response, although there were some glowing reviews. "This is frenetic, gleefully demented fun," wrote Matthew Grainger in The Dominion.

In many ways, The Frighteners hit its target. The film ably proved that top-shelf special effects could be achieved outside of Hollywood, and on a relatively small budget: US$30 million. The year it came out, the film contained the largest number of digital effects ever used in a feature. Grainger again:

"While the computer-generated ghosts and ghouls look absolutely staggering, the narrative itself offers enough fast-paced twists and turns to render The Frighteners not only the most efficient scare machine since The Evil Dead, but also the most inventive and accomplished movie of the year."

It was an effective calling card for Weta, the company Jackson had co-founded in 1994 during the making of Heavenly Creatures. With his own special-effects studio based in New Zealand, Jackson was able to establish the working model he would use for all subsequent film projects: Hollywood funding coupled with local crew and expertise.

Unlike successful New Zealand directors who went before him, Jackson didn't need to leave the country to grow his career.

Jackson and partner Fran Walsh also retained a great deal of creative control on The Frighteners, which is evident in the gleefully dark script they co-wrote. In fact, it's easily one of the funniest New Zealand films ever made.

One scene depicts the decrepit ghost Judge having his way with a mummy in a museum exhibit, after which he jokes that he likes it, "when they lie still like that."

Now that Jackson has established a career known for diversity, which enables him to alternate between comedy, fantasy and straighter fare, The Frighteners seems like a natural fit within his wide-ranging oeuvre, but the risk he took with such a divergence almost didn't pay off. Box-office for The Frighteners was disappointing, which shows what a gamble New Line took when they handed over the reigns on Jackson's next project, The Lord of the Rings.

If you liked this, you might also like...

Collection
Collection image for Christchurch

Christchurch

As a showcase history of Christchurch onscreen this...

Collection
Collection image for The Peter Jackson Collection

The Peter Jackson Collection

Led by revealing early 'behind the scenes' docos, this...

Collection
Collection image for Horror

Horror

Vampires, zombies, mutant sheep, and the Bride of...

Thumbnail image for King Kong

King Kong

Another Jackson film made for Universal Pictures

Thumbnail image for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Another Jackson project made with American studio backing

Thumbnail image for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Another Jackson project made with American studio backing

Thumbnail image for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Another Jackson project made with American studio backing

Thumbnail image for Jack Brown Genius

Jack Brown Genius

Peter Jackson was involved with this film

Thumbnail image for Bad Taste

Bad Taste

Another Peter Jackson film

Thumbnail image for Braindead

Braindead

Another Peter Jackson film

Thumbnail image for Black Sheep

Black Sheep

Classic kiwi horror movie

Thumbnail image for Bred to Win

Bred to Win

Frightener’s cameraman John Blick shot this NFU documentary

Thumbnail image for The Story of Seven-Hundred Polish Children

The Story of Seven-Hundred Polish Children

John Blick was cameraman for this NFU doco

Thumbnail image for A Haunting We Will Go - Cellar Ghost

A Haunting We Will Go - Cellar Ghost

Another tale that spins comedy from ghosts

Thumbnail image for A Haunting We Will Go - Pilot Episode

A Haunting We Will Go - Pilot Episode

Another tale that spins comedy from ghosts

Thumbnail image for Ghost Hunt - St James Theatre

Ghost Hunt - St James Theatre

A series that visits NZ most haunted locations

Thumbnail image for Meet the Feebles

Meet the Feebles

Another Peter Jackson feature

Thumbnail image for Valley of the Stereos

Valley of the Stereos

Effects man George Port directed this

Thumbnail image for Miles Turns 21

Miles Turns 21

Michael J Fox is a hero for the subject of this doco

Thumbnail image for Barefoot Cinema

Barefoot Cinema

A film about cinematographer Alun Bollinger

Thumbnail image for A List of Names

A List of Names

More ghosts and Peter Jackson

Thumbnail image for Jack Be Nimble

Jack Be Nimble

More Kiwi-made scares with an American lead

Thumbnail image for Dead

Dead

Another ghost comedy

Thumbnail image for The Edge - Holly Hunter interview

The Edge - Holly Hunter interview

Another American actor downunder