First of all, happy new year to all my fellow cinephiles. I was pretty much absent from the blog over Christmas and New Year but I'm sure you all had a wonderful time with friends and family. Plus, I hope Santa brought you all sorts of great cinematic goodies. Second of all, it's that time of year that bloggers thank all their devoted readers. Although my subscriber list is small, I'd like to thank you for subscribing, reading, and following me on Twitter. I love doing what I do and hopefully this year I can build on my subscriber count and bring you all sorts of film-related content. More to the point though, it's time for this week's Movie of the Week.
Peter Jackson has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood and has put New Zealand on the world film industry map. Considering the fact that the first instalment of his imagining of The Hobbit has hit the big screen, I thought it appropriate to go back to his roots and feature one of his earlier films for Movie of the Week. Of course, he's not all Hobbits and Orcs.
Before making the Lord of the Rings trilogy he was known for his comedy horror films. During the late '80s and early to mid '90s he brought us films such as Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, Braindead, and Heavenly Creatures. Then, in 1996, he directed, produced and co-wrote a little film called The Frighteners.
It must be made clear that The Frighteners is by no means a good film. Although it holds a "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and despite the positive reviews, the film is heavily criticised for its poor visual effects. The visual effects were done by Jackson's own Weta Digital which had only been created three years prior. The film was made with the use of CGI and scale models (which were necessary to make Wellington look like an American city). Film critic Edward Guthmann reviewed the film for the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote:
The Frighteners...is an object lesson in what to avoid when making the transition from low-budget films to studio productions. Shrill, overproduced and crammed with clever visual effects and sound cues, The Frighteners starts off with a simple idea -- a small-time ghostbuster meets his match in a sinister poltergeist -- but smothers whatever merits it may have had in a rush of bells, whistles, bombast and smoke.
Interestingly however, Universal Pictures was so impressed with Jackson's rough cut of the film that they moved the release date closer by four months. On the other hand, The Frighteners was not a box office success. The film earned $5,565,495 in its opening weekend and eventually came to a worldwide total of $29,359,216 despite its release as a summer blockbuster. Also, The Frighteners was Michael J. Fox's last leading role in a live-action feature before his semi-retirement in 2000 due to his unfortunate diagnosis with Parkinson's disease.
In Brian Sibley's 'Peter Jackson: A Filmmaker's Journey', it is said that the director blames Univeral's marketing campaign for the film's ultimate box office failure. According to the book, Jackson said that among many things, the poster for The Frighteners "didn't tell you anything about the picture," which he believes was the primary reason for its financial flop.
Whether or not you're fan of Jackson, The Frighteners is definitely worth a visit. It certainly has its faults, but what's most awesome is that it was made right here in Wellington.