Director Peter Jackson's Hollywood follow-up to acclaimed indie Heavenly Creatures mixes ace digital effects with a flawed humor/horror premise, resulting in an uneasy mishmash that rarely fires on all cylinders. Jackson has a great time poking fun at Ghost (and at star Michael J. Fox's typical onscreen persona), but his homage to '50s horror extravaganzas comes off too slick to be more than an interesting gloss on the real thing. As with lesser Tim Burton efforts, too much energy goes into the emulation and not enough comes from the gut. Trini Alvarado is appealing as the none too depressed widow, but John Astin and his cohort of fellow ghosts seem uncomfortable with their heavily digitized performances. On a purely visual level, the film's a marvel, full of virtuoso spook sequences and creepy images that prefigured the iconography of the Scream franchise. But the humor here is more "aw shucks" than the "been there, done that" irony of those blockbusters, leaving The Frighteners nothing more than a pleasant trifle that is easily forgotten.
by Brian J. Dillard review