Squid Throwback - The Frighteners (1996)
*taken from the squid’s earlier blogspot blog, Kaiju Reject
The Frighteners (1996)
The Frighteners is a film about ghosts. And Michael J. Fox. Why not, amirite? (Jim Fyfe, Michael J. Fox, Chi McBride in The Frighteners, 1996)
Directed by Peter Jackson, it was one of the many “horror-comedy” films that came out in the early-to-mid ’90s. And, as is the case with Jackson movies in the era pre-LOTR, it does a damn fine job of mixing the two genres. Mixing blood and goofball humor is a Jackson staple and this movie is full of it. The gore effects are always played up for laughs: ghosts’ eyes pop out like Scooby-Doo, an undead dog can’t finish its food, a cowboy has sex with a mummy… It doesn’t end. The silly one-liners and banter between characters are in full force as well, especially the comedic duo of ghosts who help Frank, our main character, throughout the film. Also, R. Lee Ermey, hello? Brilliantly random casting and jokes from him as well. And this movie has a few pretty fun scares too, if that’s what you really came around for. But who goes to horror movies to be scared these days anyway?
”This is heavy, Doc!” (Fox and Trini Alvorado in The Frighteners, 1996)
Let’s talk about the plot here. Admittedly, it’s a fairly standard rhetoric: Frank Bannister is a down-on-his-luck paranormal investigator who, because of an unfortunate accident, actually can communicate with ghosts. Problem is, he uses them to scam people and isn’t very popular company to either the living or the dead. So, what’s a guy like Frank supposed to do when he’s got no money, a couple deadbeat ghosts in his house, and is suddenly seeing numbers on everybody’s foreheads? Save the goddamn world, that’s what. The film that follows becomes progressively kookier as Frank is chased by FBI Agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs), meets the Grim Reaper, falls in love, flips out in a museum, and pieces together the events of his accident. It’s all pretty enjoyable, without leaving any spoilers for those interested. I will complain, however, that the last 1/4 of the movie comes out of left field. Was it satisfying though? Definitely. This is one of those movies that impresses the hell out of you for 2 hours straight before making you suddenly play catch up during the last few minutes to figure out what you missed earlier in the flick. You know… the Garden State Effect.
Dr. Herbert West, in the flesh (Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners, 1996)
Now, as far as the cast is concerned I’ll need to address the elephant in the room first: that IS Michael J. Fox in the title role as Frank. He puts in a fantastic performance and all of your worries of it just being “Marty McFly with ghosts” will wash away within the first few scenes. This is of course prior to Fox’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s, and for a final film before “bowing out” I’d say it’s not a bad performance to leave on. He’s funny, animated, emotional and, to contradict myself, DOES bring that little “‘Don’t call me a chicken’ McFly” edge to the way he delivers his lines in some small ways. It’s great! And Jeffrey Combs as the FBI Agent is fantastic. He genuinely has his creepy edge carried over from Re-Animator (and its sequels, eww!) and the character of Agent Dammers is downright pathetic. The final few scenes with him, especially when he unveils his “secret” to Lucy in the patrol car, are both hilarious and insane. His ending is both well-deserved and humorously tragic. Trini Alvarado delivers a nice performance as Dr. Lucy Lynsky and is believable as the strong female love interest for Fox; though this is one of her few roles in film, I could’ve sworn I saw her in more movies—kind of a shame she did so few. Jim Fyfe and Chi McBride are beloved as the ghost duo as well, though again: not super notable actors in Hollywood by a longshot, which was a major letdown. And, as I mentioned earlier, the movie does boast a cameo from R. Lee Ermey not once, but twice! And the second time for nearly an entire scene. Is that enough to make him a main character? Man!
This looks like it belongs in another movie… (Dee Wallace in The Frighteners, 1996)
If I had to give a final word, I’d say The Frighteners fits somewhere comfortably between Evil Dead and the Nightmare on Elm Street series as far as the “actually good horror-comedy” goes. The special effects are sharp for their time; I heard that it took Jackson’s Weta Digital studios nearly six years to figure out the technology to film the special effects shots using blue-screened ghosts mixed with live actors. For that kind of dedication from Jackson and the crew alone, the movie should be lauded. But, also considering its strong pacing, childish sense of humor and light gore, and the honestly unique characters… I recommend The Frighteners to anybody who’s even the slightest bit interested. It’s an astonishingly self-aware and polished flick for its time. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Squid Throwback - American Psycho (2000)
*taken from the squid’s earlier blogspot blog, Kaiju Reject
American Psycho (2000)
I would be lying if I said I knew right away this movie was made in 2000. American Psycho looks and feels like an ’80s movie and I was absolutely convinced it was made in something like 1989 until I had to IMDB it and put that question to rest. So… kudos to the production team for that. They had me going for a while there.
"Who’s good lookin’?" (American Psycho, 2000)
American Psycho is one of those movies that if you know or do anything on the internet you’ve probably heard of at some point. I remember a few friends in high school and college pestering me to see this movie and kept holding my breath for years. Yet, all it took was one fateful day to see it on a list of “Top 100 Horror Movies” and a couple AFI lists before I decided it was time to do the deed. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far: I ended up seeing it this weekend on the whims of my girlfriend. Funny how that all works out.
Smarmy Reagan-voting bastard! (American Psycho, 2000)
Poetic? Not really. Make a great Facebook pic someday. (American Psycho, 2000)
I won’t go into much more about this flick because it really is just an elaborate character study on Patrick Bateman. Bale does an amazing job creating a believable character and, by the end of the movie, you really root for Patrick Bateman and wonder just how insane he truly is. Somebody told me there was some caustic and subtle commentary on ’80s culture somewhere in this movie, and it’s definitely there and definitely not that subtle. But I also think that you can get a lot from this movie if you watch it from the perspective of a therapist or psychologist trying to figure out Bateman’s “story.” What’s really going on with him? That, to me, is much more fascinating than the same old “rich people suck” milieu a lot of films push on their audiences.
Here we see Christian Bale wearing a scarf… for some reason… (American Psycho, 2000)
But hey. Enough of that. I’ll just leave you with my two cents (or thirty, spread across the lines up above) and hope you can get out and enjoy this movie. Internet memes aside, it’s a genuinely an interesting and entertaining film.
”He said I would get doubles!” (American Psycho, 2000)
Mila… even you can’t save this picture (American Psycho II, 2002)