Rolling Stone - 08/22/1996
"...Flashes of twisted inspiration..."
Entertainment Weekly - 12/20/1996
"...Everything-goes....Consistently witty and often lewd and rude..." -- Rating: B+
Los Angeles Times - 07/19/1996
"...Saucy, scary and pleasantly unsettling....Jackson, at home with all kinds of excess, keeps everything spinning nicely..."
New York Times - 12/06/2005
"[A]s the filmmaker points out, THE FRIGHTENERS represents a major turning point in his career. This was the first time that Mr. Jackson worked for a Hollywood studio, cast a major star and made extensive use of computer-generated imagery..."
Sight and Sound - 02/01/2006
"Jackson's first Hollywood outing is a smash-and-grab horror-comedy....The ectoplasmic effects have aged fairly well..."
Total Film - 12/01/2011 4 stars out of 5 -- "Eccentric, muddled and CGI heavy; Jackson's Hollywood debut still manages to look like a cult classic."
When his hometown is struck by a series of mysterious deaths that appears to be the work of a malicious supernatural killer, a psychic investigator who is able to communicate with the dead attempts to get to the bottom of things and put a stop to the murders. But even with the help of three ghostly friends, he soon discovers that defeating the deadly fiend is a task much easier said than done. With its mix of humor and suspense, THE FRIGHTENERS is spooky good fun from cult horror director Peter Jackson.
Offbeat horror director Peter Jackson goes Hollywood with this follow-up to his acclaimed 1994 feature, HEAVENLY CREATURES. THE FRIGHTENERS, part horror-comedy, part supernatural thriller, stars Michael J. Fox as psychic investigator Frank Bannister. Bannister is able to see and communicate with spirits as a result of the trauma of witnessing his wife die in a car accident. Now a series of mysterious deaths in Frank's hometown has left authorities at wit's end. The deaths appear to be caused by heart attacks, but eventually it is revealed that they are actually the work of a menacing, Grim Reaper-like phantom. Bannister becomes a suspect after several deaths occur in his presence, and in order to prove his innocence, he and a team of three friendly ghosts attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the murderous specter. But what emerges is far more than they bargained for, and soon a psychotic killer's lust for revenge from beyond the grave threatens the lives of both Bannister and his new love interest (Trini Alvarado). THE FRIGHTENERS is a fun and fast-paced cinematic romp with plenty of stunning computer-generated special effects.
Although the film is set in California, it was filmed in New Zealand.
Peter Jackson had actually sent an outline for THE FRIGHTENERS to executive producer Robert Zemeckis as a proposed episode for the HBO series TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Zemeckis thought the story was good enough to stand on its own and decided to turn it into a feature-length film.
Jackson has a cameo appearance as a biker that Michael J. Fox's character bumps into exiting an office building.