Take one 1980’s teen idol more famous for shuttling backwards and forwards through time, add the patriarch of a ‘kooky’ family and Lovecraft’s mad doctor, sprinkle liberally with ghosts and wrap in a script by those responsible for translating Tolkien to the Big Screen and what do you get?
Released in 1996, The Frighteners was a comedy horror movie co-written and directed by Peter Jackson and starring Michael J. Fox in his last film role.
“In 1990, architect Frank Bannister’s (Michael J. Fox) wife, Debra , dies in a car accident. He abandons his profession, and his unfinished “dream house” sits incomplete. Following the accident, Frank gained the power to see ghosts and befriends three: 1970s street gangster Cyrus (Chi McBride), 1950s nerd Stuart (Jim Fyfe), and The Judge (John Astin), a gunslinger from the Old West. The ghosts haunt houses so Frank can then “exorcise” them for a fee. Most locals consider him a con man.”
Okay, so I pinched the above directly from Wikipedia, but I was trying to sum up the movie and realised that what I’d written was pretty much what was already on there.
Frank starts to see glowing numbers on the foreheads of inhabitants of the town, who then mysteriously die and both the local police and Special Agent Milton Dammers (Jeffery Coombs) believe he is responsible. However, the actual culprit appears to be the Grim Reaper…
This is a fun movie, with star turns from Fox, Astin and especially Coombs as the definitely unhinged Agent Dammers, and manages to be both funny and creepy at the same time. The special effects are very good and the ‘Grim Reaper’ makes an effective and deadly foe. Whilst a little darker than Ghostbusters, as the ‘Reaper’ does amass a rather high body count (no gore though), it has the same tone and feel. As Bannister is effectively a “Ghostbuster”, albeit a fake one, I do feel this sits comfortably within my “expanded” Ghostbusters universe and so therefore joins my list.
So, on to ‘casting’ the movie. Frank Bannister, as portrayed by Michael J. Fox was probably the hardest figure to find and I’m still not 100% happy with my choice…
This is William, who is obviously supposed to be Spike from Buffy, available from Hasslefree Miniatures for £3.75 + VAT. Not perfect, but this is the closest I could find to Bannister’s main outfit in the movie. Should anyone think of a better suggestion, please let me know.
Special Agent Milton Dammers was surprisingly easy, once I’d remembered that he has a distinctive hair style:
This is Professor Eddie Coffin, from RAFM’s USX miniatures range, available from their website for $5.95. RAFM also provided the figure for Cyrus, the 1970’s Gangster;
This is Action Jackson, also $5.95. Whilst Cyrus is not armed in the movie and does have a moustache, the other options I looked at were not wearing the correct outfits or had the wrong hair, so I’m pretty happy with this choice.
Our final three figures are all from the same manufacturer, namely Reaper Miniatures. For Stuart the 1950s nerd, we have;
This pack from Reaper is aptly named Townsfolk: Jock, Chick, Nerd, available directly from their website for $8.99, which is pretty good value for three figures. Stuart is obviously the one on the left, but the other two figures are pretty useful too.
For the Judge, the undead gunslinger, we have this from Reaper:
This is the Undead Outlaw, available in metal for $6.29 or in ‘Bones’ for $2.99, depending on your budget and preference. You may have to add a little facial hair to match the character exactly, but this is another nice figure for those who prefer the dead to the quick.
Finally, after an exhaustive search of all things both grim and reaper-ish, I found this to represent the ‘Grim Reaper’ from the movie:
This is the Death Shroud, available for $5.99. Almost perfect and would also make a very serviceable Dementor, should you want to game in the world of Harry Potter.
Join me back here at the weekend, where there will hopefully be some progress on my Ghostbusters and their foes, rather than boring pictures of buildings…
Comments and feedback, both welcome and appreciated.