Frighteners, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2 1/2

Michael J. Fox plays psychic investigator Frank Bannister, who can see ghosts, a by-product of a car accident that killed his wife. He enlists three spirits to haunt houses so Bannister can remove the offending poltergeists for a fee, naturally. But something more serious is happening around town, as people are killed by unusual heart attacks. Bannister can see that a supernatural force is responsible, a Grim Reaper-style phantom who reaches into a living person and crushes their heart. Frank tries to thwart this sinister presence, especially with a pretty doctor (Trini Alvarado) marked for death. Bannister decides to fight this evil spirit ghost-to-ghost, as the doctor sends him on an out-of-body experience. Fox, straying from his wholesome Family Ties past, plays a character who isn't very charming. While THE FRIGHTENERS bears some resemblance to Ghostbusters, it emphasizes death over comical hauntings. The murders are very real, creating an uncomfortable mix that leans more towards horror over humor, although it isn't engaging in either direction.

Typical for this genre, THE FRIGHTENERS has confused notions about death. The ghosts haunt the realm of the living because they decide not to enter a bright tunnel to the great beyond. These spirits are affected by objects like bullets, but later emerge unscathed; nevertheless, their bodies are slowly decomposing. The evil spirit, called the Soul Collector, can take lives, even those destined for heaven. Some victims are carried skyward, while villains are drawn into another tunnel where gruesome snakes take them to the netherworld. Violence on ghosts is used for laughs, but attacks on the living are quite serious. Several people are shot by a serial killer in a flashback, and the evil spirit claims several lives. Occultic elements emerge as Fox communicates with dead spirits, although his abilities are depicted as accidental in nature. In one scene a ghost implies that he had sex with a mummy. Over 40 mild and moderate crude words, many obscenities and two dozen profanities also defuse light-hearted intentions. The film misrepresents the source of life and death, and presents a vague concept of heaven and hell devoid of any religious context. THE FRIGHTENERS wants to scare up laughs and thrills, but its faulty theology is particularly terrifying and misleading.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Universal Pictures, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (44) times - Mild 19, Moderate 25

Obscene Language: Many (15) times - S-word 15

Profanity: Many (24) times - Regular 13 (G-D 6, J 4, G 2, JC 1), Exclamatory 11

Violence: Many times - Moderate and severe (ghosts and people shot, woman's hand cut, gunfire, fistfights, people killed by ghost, woman attacks with knife, woman strangled, attempted strangulations, head of ghost explodes)

Sex: Implied that a ghost has sex with a mummy

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Drugs used to create simulated death

Other: Man communicates with dead, evil spirit responsible for deaths, crucifix used to break down door

Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Teens and adults

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