IHR Ep. 55: The Frighteners

Welcome to the INDIE HORROR RISING podcast, Episode #55!

On this week’s podcast, co-hosts Jay Sapiro and Chris Micklos do an IHR Dark Dive on the 1996 horror-comedy film THE FRIGHTENERS, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. This spoiler-rich episode features a comprehensive discussion and analysis of what works and what doesn’t work in writer/director Peter Jackson’s final film before his THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

Listen to this week’s episode on Soundcloud HERE, or subscribe to INDIE HORROR RISING on iTunes HERE.

More information, links, and show notes below!


After a tragic car accident that kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead…in the 1996 horror comedy THE FRIGHTENERS.

Headlined by Michael J. Fox, produced by Robert Zemekis, scored by Danny Elfman, and directed by a relatively unknown Peter Jackson—his last film before THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy—THE FRIGHTENERS cost $30 million to make and scored a disappointing box office of $29,359,216 gross worldwide.

Released on July 19, 1996,  THE FRIGHTENERS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

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PETER JACKSON was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8 movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies, which he made with his friends. They were usually short, but they already had the trademark that would make Jackson famous: impressive special effects, made at a very low cost. For example, for his film WORLD WAR TWO which he made as a teenager, he used to simulate a firing gun by punching little holes into the celluloid, so that, once projected, the gun gave the impression of displaying a small fire. Jackson’s first step towards more serious film-making came with an entry in a local contest to stimulate amateur and children’s films. For this film, he used stop-motion animation to create a monster that ruins a city in the style of Ray Harryhausen. Unfortunately, he didn’t win.

At twenty-two, he embarked on a movie-making adventure that would change his life. This film, BAD TASTE (1987), was begun as any other Jackson film, in an amateur style, at a low budget and using friends and local people to star in his film. Jackson himself did nearly everything in the movie; he directed, produced, filmed and starred in it, in a number of roles, amongst them that of the hero, “Derek”. And everything was filmed on a second-hand, $250 camera. It took Jackson and his friends four years to complete the movie. What had started as a joke in a group of friends, then became a cult classic. A friend of Jackson who was working in the movie industry convinced him the film had commercial prospects and arranged for it to be shown at the Cannes film festival, where it won a lot of acclaim, as well as a number of prizes. The movie soon became a hit because of its bizarre humor and overdose of special effects, some realistic, some comedically amateur.

After breaking into mainstream filmmaking with movies like DEAD ALIVE (1992, aka BRAINDEAD), HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994), and then THE FRIGHTENERS, Jackson made the epic THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (2001-2003) and become one of the most well-known and successful directors in the world. (Source: IMDB Bio)

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THE FRIGHTENERS ON IMDB: www.imdb.com/title/tt0116365

PETER JACKSON ON IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm0001392




Read Roger Ebert’s 1996 review of THE FRIGHTENERS at RogerEbert.com.

Read “THE FRIGHTENERS, Peter Jackson’s Precursor to LORD OF THE RINGS, Still Scares and Surprises” at io9.gizmodo.com.

Read “8 Things You May Not Know about THE FRIGHTENERS” at WeMinoredInFilm.com.

Read “No Rest for the Wicked: Spooks and Serial Killers in Peter Jackson’s THE FRIGHTENERS” at VHSRevival.com.

Read a review of the THE FRIGHTENERS DVD at CinemaBlend.com.


Jay: Check out Jay’s Bloody Good Stuff, a collection of hilarious bloopers and outtakes from THE FRIGHTENERS, HERE and HERE.

Chris: If you’re confused, as Chris is, how a list of the ten funniest scary movies EVERY MADE can only include movies made after 1980, check out Chris’ Bloody Good Stuff HERE.

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