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The Frighteners

The FrightenersREVIEW BY GUEST WRITER KACKIE L. SAUNDERS

Setting: Fairwater

In a dark house, Patricia Bradley screams and runs from a ghostly form traveling at terrifying speeds through her house. The shape catches up to her, and hidden under a rug, it chokes her. Patricia’s mother emerges from her room with a shotgun, and shoots at the thing holding Patricia, and it lets her go.

In the Fairwater Gazette’s office, Magda Rees-Jones, a reporter, reads the story another reporter is writing about strange deaths in the town. Young, healthy people have been dying of strange heart failures. Magda tells the male reporter she wants him to talk with families of the victims… and to stop referring to death as a person.

On a rainy morning, a funeral is taking place. A man in a beaten yellow and green car pulls up, and starts walking towards the grieving people. The man wears a long yellow trench coat, and carries business cards. He approaches someone, murmuring, “Friend of the family? Such a shame…” Another man sees him there, and shoves him, telling him loudly that he’s not wanted there.

The man steps back, and tosses a handful of business cards at the crowd in general. His name is Frank Bannister, his business card says, and he’s a “physic investigator.”

Frank walks back to his car, and starts driving like a maniac on the way home, knocking small trees down and nearly getting hit by a huge truck. He crashes into a white fence, and the angry owner comes out to gripe him out. “You’re a physic? Why didn’t you see that corner, then, moron?” he demands angrily. Frank tells him to give him a call, and he’ll pay for the fence. As Frank pulls away, he purposely runs over one of the man’s garden gnomes.

A dark-haired lady pulls up to Patricia Bradley’s house, and goes to the door. Patricia’s mother suspiciously asks her where their usual doctor is. Lucy Lynskey, the doctor lady, explains that the other doctor is at a funeral, and she is there instead.

Lucy leaves the house after bandaging Patricia’s hand, and heads home. As she lays in bed that evening, she watches a special about Patricia Bradley and her boyfriend, Johnny Bartlett, on TV. Johnny Bartlett had reportedly entered a hospital thirty years before, and killed twelve people. Nurses, patients, doctors, and people praying in the chapel were all murdered. Patricia Bradley was a teenager at the time, and when Johnny Bartlett was sent to the electric chair, she was sent to prison. She had gotten out years later, and was living at home with her mother. Whether or not she had helped Bartlett murder the people wasn’t known for sure yet.

Lucy’s exercise-obsessed husband, Ray, turns the TV off… and then the bed Lucy’s on starts shaking. It moves slowly into the air, and she starts screaming for Ray to help her. He sees a statue of Elvis floating by. “He’s alive…” he breathes.

Lucy notices Frank Bannister’s business card tucked under her comforter, and calls him. Frank heads right over, and Ray isn’t happy to see him. It was Ray’s fence that Frank destroyed that morning, and when he pulled up that night, he wrecked the rest of the fence, and ran over the remaining garden gnomes.

Frank tells the Lynskey’s that he’ll rid their home of the ghosts haunting them, for the right price. Or, he offers, they forget the fence and he’ll call it even.

He asks them if the table spun in a counterclockwise direction, and Lucy says no. He asks if the toilet seat banged up and down. She says no to that too. “Did the bed levitate?” he asks finally.

“Yes, with me on it!”

“Recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis,” he states matter-of-factly. He pulls out a toaster-oven-looking box, puts it on their counter, and smacks it. It makes a humming noise, and then lights up. A little blue bag pops up from the top, supposedly with what’s left of the ghosts still inside. He shoves it down the garbage disposal, and is on his way out when he notices a burning number on Ray’s forehead. “What’s with the number?” he asks, but no one else can see it. Frank looks spooked, and hurries out of the house with all of his equipment.

When he pulls up to his dilapidated house on a hill, two ghosts come out from the car with him, complaining about Frank’s reckless driving. Frank and the ghosts go into his house, and he angrily asks him why they didn’t do the usual things; banging the toilet seat up and down and spinning the table. Then, he turns and looks at them. “And, which idiot put the number in the guy’s forehead?” They shrug and shake their heads. “It wasn’t funny.”

The next morning, the ghosts are still complaining. They’ve been working for Frank for five years, and he isn’t keeping his promises to them. Cyrus, the ghost that died in the 70’s, is complaining about his clothes and about not having cigars to smoke. He tells Frank, at least he could light up a cigar and blow the smoke in Cyrus’ face. “If I light up a cigar, I’ll blow my lunch in your face,” Frank replies, finishing his bowl of cereal. The third ghost, a judge from the late 1800’s, comes into the room, shooting a gun at his ghost-dog. The Judge is falling apart. His jaw keeps falling off, and his ectoplasm is drying up. He sits down with Frank that evening, and tells him firmly that death is no way to make a living. Frank argues that he has to work; he wants to finish building his house.

“You ain’t gonna finish the house… you ain’t gonna finish nothin’! You’re fooling yourself, Frank!” Judge tells Frank as he gets up and leaves. “Too many skeletons in the closet,” Judge says quietly.

The next morning, Cyrus and the other ghost, Stuart, are at the gate of a white mansion. They go inside, and see three babies on the floor playing, and a snobby mother stepping by them and saying, “big kiss” as she leaves the room. Cyrus and Stuart tell one baby they want to scare the living daylights out of the parents, and the baby giggles. The children’s nanny looks up to see the babies floating in the air, and she screams for the mother.

The babies fly through the air, giggling, and crash into the mother. Frank Bannister’s card is in one of the baby’s hand. When Frank arrives, the mother tells him to leave. She had seen the headlines of the paper, “Local Con Man Haunts Cemetery.”

The next scene, Frank is at the Fairwater Gazette, complaining about the story. Magda Rees-Jones tells him the town doesn’t need him; he’s a phony. Frank leaves her office saying, “I’m just trying to make a living.” She watches him leave, and calls after him, “Not a word you’d know a lot about, is it, Mr. Bannister?”

Frank walks out of the building, and runs into a man with nose rings and lip rings, and long hair, (Peter Jackson, the director, played this cameo part). Frank zeros in on the shirt the man’s wearing; the Grim Reaper is on his shirt. Frank walks out into the street, still staring after Peter Jackson’s character, and gets hit by a black car. He manages to jump up on the hood, and get back off with minimal injury, and walks away, shaken by this too. He realizes what hit him–a hearse. He sees Lucy in another black car, and starts walking again.

Ray, now a ghost, runs through some people, and into Frank, knocking him over. Some men on the street pull Frank to his feet, not knowing why he had suddenly fallen over backwards. Frank has Ray follow him into an alleyway so people won’t wonder why Frank’s talking “to himself.” Ray’s panicked, and asks Frank what’s wrong with him.

“Well, Ray, you appear to be dead,” Frank tells him. A few minutes later, Ray shivers.

“Will you at least give me a ride so I don’t miss my funeral?” Ray asks. Frank takes him to the funeral. On their way in, a soldier ghost tells Frank to get out; he’s not welcome there. The ghost punches Frank, and when Frank tries to hit him back, he goes right through him. The soldier hits him again, and knocks him onto his back. He tells Frank he’s just waiting for him to die… Frank gets up and goes down to the funeral, and when it’s almost over, Ray accidentally falls into his grave and gets stuck. A police officer is asking Frank some questions, as Frank was one of the last people to see Ray alive, and Ray is shouting, “Bannister!” and begging to be pulled from his grave. Frank asks the officer to let him pay his last respects to Ray, and the officer walks away. He looks back, though, and sees Frank struggling with air, and then straightening and motioning for it to follow him. The officer shakes his head, and walks away.

Lucy comes to Frank, asking him if he has a message for her from Ray. Ray loves the idea.

In the next scene, it’s a rainy night, and Lucy is just showing up to a little restaurant. The waiters are dressed in costumes like the medieval times, and it’s candle lit. Frank is waiting for Lucy, dressed up in a suit and tie for once in the movie. Lucy asks him if Ray is with them. Sure enough, Ray is sitting next to her. As the meal goes on, Lucy asks Frank why he can see Ray, and she can’t. He tells her he had been in a car accident five years before, and that he’d been able to see ghosts since then. Then, Frank directs her attention back to Ray. Lucy says she has a question for Ray… what happened to the 16 thousand she had saved? Ray says he blew it on a bad investment, but tells Frank not to tell Lucy that. Frank immediately tells Lucy that Ray blew it on a bad investment. A very angry Ray tells Frank to tell Lucy everything will be all right.

“What did he say?” Lucy asks Frank. Frank tells her Ray left, and told her to get on with her life. She admits that she and Ray had been having problems in their marriage. Frank reaches over and touches her hand, telling her it will be all right. Ray knocks Frank’s wine glass over, and Frank jumps up. Ray tells him he’d better watch his back, and then Ray gets up and leaves.

Frank goes into the bathroom to clean his pants off, and while he’s wiping them clean, a man walks into the bathroom. Frank notices a burning number on the man’s forehead. As Frank finishes cleaning his pants, he sees a shape that seems to be moving under the wallpaper of the bathroom. He throws open the doors of the stalls, and by now, the other man thinks he’s a nut, and is hurriedly washing his hands so he can leave.

Then, a thing that looks like the Grim Reaper reaches a bony hand through the mirror, and into the man’s chest. He gasps, and falls over. The Grim Reaper goes back into the mirror, and disappears. Frank comes out of the bathroom stall, and sees a bright light, and the man’s ghost going upwards. Frank is blinded by the light, and falls backwards over the man’s body. He runs out of the restaurant and to his car as fast as he can go.

At the police station, a doctor is saying that someone else has died of the strange heart failure. An officer comes to the police chief, and tells him that a few minutes before the body was found, someone had come running from the bathroom, white as a sheet and shaking. The chief asks who it was.

“Frank Bannister.”

Frank, meanwhile, is trying to chase the Grim Reaper down with his car. He finally is able to drive through it, but it scares him so much that he drives off the road, and almost goes off a cliff again.

Back at the police station, Lucy has been brought in for questioning. A strange man with black hair, wearing a black coat over his clothes and black gloves appears, saying he had gotten there as fast as possible. He had been planning to fly there, he says, but he didn’t feel good about the plane. He starts asking Lucy strange questions.

“Lucy, you just lost your husband, and this would be an easy time for a man like Frank Bannister to take advantage,” the police chief says to her. She starts to argue, but Agent Milton Dammers, the weird guy with the black gloves, launches into a story about Frank Bannister.

Five years before, Frank Bannister was a successful architect. He had been overseeing construction of his new home, and was seen consuming alcohol one morning. He had promised his wife, Debra, a garden in their new home, and instead, he’d had a four-inch-thick slab of concrete laid to make a basketball court for himself. Debra and Frank are seen arguing; Frank throws his beer can and kicks the basketball angrily. (Frank had shoulder-length hair back then!)

The couple then got in their car and drove away. They pulled onto Holloway Road, and continued to argue. Then, their car leaves the road on a sharp curve… because, Dammers says, Frank was driving too fast. That’s not all, he goes on to say. Debra’s body was found some fifteen feet from the car, with a number 13 carved in her forehead. That morning, Frank had bought seven new blades for his utility knife, and after the accident, that knife was missing. Frank was found two hours after the accident, wandering in the woods, his memory of what happened after the accident gone.

This story makes Lucy think, but she doesn’t believe Frank is a murderer.

Frank meanwhile, is listening to his ghost pals arguing about what the figure in the cape was. Judge tells them he thinks it’s the Soul Collector. Just then, they see a bright beam of light coming from the museum, and Frank drives there at breakneck speeds, knocking some more things over in the process. Once inside the museum, he sees that the male reporter from the beginning of the movie was the last victim. He turns to Magda Rees-Jones, who has a number on her forehead.

“You’re next,” Frank whispers. Magda starts screaming that he’s threatening to kill her. Police officers show up, pointing guns at Frank. He backs away from them, telling them to put the guns down… then he sees the Grim Reaper. He tries to get to Magda to keep her safe from the Reaper, but the police threaten to shoot him if he moves. Judge shows up then, shooting at the Reaper with his ghost-guns. The other ghosts start making noise, knocking things over, and moving things. The distracted police allow Frank to escape. Just as he’s about to leave, though, he sees the Reaper chop Judge in half.

Magda tries to hit Frank as he turns towards the door, and he ducks, comes back up, and punches her. She falls onto him, and he carries her out of the museum. He puts her in his car, and drives away from the museum while the ghosts keep the police busy a little longer.

The Grim Reaper follows Frank as he drives towards home, and as he pulls onto Holloway Road, it sticks its sickle through the roof, and puts it under Frank’s chin. Not being able to drive, he crashes off the same cliff he’d crashed off when his wife died. Magda gets out of his car, sobbing and terrified, and tries to run into the woods. Frank calls for her to come back, but she keeps going. The Reaper leaps onto her, and squeezes her heart. Frank tries to jump on it, but lands on Magda instead when the Reaper vanishes. He remembers his wife laying on the ground, also, and gasps. Magda’s ghost sees him on her, and thinks he killed her. Before she disappears, she accuses him of killing his wife also. Frank takes off into the woods, yelling.

At the police station, Dammers says he doubts they’ll see Frank Bannister again, that he is a man more resourceful then they can possibly imagine. Just then, Frank walks up behind Dammers.

Frank tells them where Magda’s body is, and the police chief asks Frank if he had anything to do with the woman’s death. Frank is handcuffed, and taken from the room by a couple of officers. Lucy is still there, and sees him. She tries to tell him he needs a lawyer, that he hasn’t done anything.

“How do you know?” Frank asks her. “Do you know me? Am I a nice guy, Lucy?” He tells her that the time they’d spent together had just been him doing his job, and that he didn’t care about her at all. She won’t believe it, though, and goes stomping out.

Dammers is alone in a room with Frank. He tells him he thinks Frank has been using the power of his mind to crush people’s hearts. People Frank doesn’t like, people Frank argued with. Frank starts shaking his head, saying, “no, no, no, no!” Then, Dammers says, “You killed your wife!” Frank shouts, “No!” and starts shaking, covering his face with his hands.

“Why are you shaking? Oh… You’re doing it now,” Dammers says. He unbuttons his shirt, and says, “Well, you can’t hurt me–I’m wearing a lead breastplate!”

The first place Lucy goes is Frank’s house… and she finds something there that convinces her he hasn’t killed anyone. Where his basketball court had been, a beautiful garden is instead; the basketball hoop has gone into disrepair, but Frank doesn’t care.

Lucy hears Patricia’s mother call Frank, and get his answering machine. Lucy hurries over to the Bradley home, and once again thinks Patricia is being unfairly treated. Patricia hides Lucy in her mother’s closet so the older lady doesn’t know anyone is there, and as Lucy waits in the closet, she sees something. Frank’s utility knife.

Lucy sneaks out of the house, and Ray, who is still following her around, lets her get safely outside by distracting the Reaper. Ray’s ghost lands on the hood of Lucy’s car, unseen by her, but ripped to pieces.

Lucy goes to see Frank in his jail-cell. He’s laying on his back and staring at the bunk above him, refusing to say anything.

“Frank, I found your knife!” Lucy tells him. She sits next to him. “I know you didn’t hurt anyone, Frank,” she says, and he rolls onto his side, his back to her. She tries to touch him, and he rolls away like she burned him. “You walk around like you have no feelings, but the truth is, you’re just scared!” she tells him. He rolls back onto his back, and then sits up. She asks him what’s wrong. He covers his face with his hand.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Lucy,” he says.

“Look at me!” she commands, and when he does, she sees that he’s been crying. She wipes his tears away with her thumb, sorry that she had gotten angry with him. He hugs her, and when he pulls away, his eyes get big.

She has a number on her forehead!

The Reaper comes into the room just then, and Frank tries to punch it. He hits the wall, instead, and as it starts to reach into Lucy’s chest, Stuart and Cyrus fly into the room, and pull the Reaper away. Frank catches Lucy as she crumbles, and tries to keep her turned away from the Reaper as it struggles with Stuart and Cyrus. Lucy can’t see any of it.

“Call for the deputy… and try to sound calm,” Frank tells her. She calls for the deputy, saying she’s ready to leave. As soon as he comes, Frank kicks the door open and knocks the man out. The Reaper sticks its sickle into Stuart, and yanks his ectoplasm out. Frank and Lucy run from the jail-cell, and around a corner–and there’s Dammers, holding a gun.

“He’s crazy!” Lucy says, moving to Dammers’ side. He is about to shoot Frank, when she blasts him with a fire extinguisher.

Frank kicks Dammers, and takes his gun. As Frank and Lucy run from the building, Frank sees the Reaper take Cyrus’ ectoplasm too.

Frank and Lucy run from the building, and then stop after a few minutes. “I can’t protect you, Lucy…” he tells her. “I need an out-of-body experience, and I need it now.” He puts Dammers’ gun to his head. Lucy gasps. “Go home, Lucy. Just walk the other way,” Frank commands her, squeezing his eyes closed. She grabs his arm.

“Wait!” she says.

Lucy has Frank go into a huge freezer, after giving him something to slow his heart. She tells him he only has twenty minutes before she has to revive him. When she closes the heavy door to the freezer, she kisses her fingers, and puts them on the glass. Frank kisses his, and puts them over hers on the other side of the glass. He sits down, and shivers as it gets colder and colder.

Dammers appears, scaring Lucy. He sees Frank shivering in the freezer, and is very pleased. He handcuffs Lucy, and drives her away from the hospital. Frank stops shivering, and his ghost comes out. He falls through several walls, and one floor, before managing to get outside. Finding the Reaper is easy, but fighting him isn’t.

Dammers stops the car, and tells Lucy he is going to use the power of his mind to make the car move. Frank’s ghost gets in the car, starts it up, and drives away. “I’m doing this?” Dammers asks. “With the power of my mind?! Yes! No–wait!”

Frank is pulled from the car by the soldier ghost, and thrown into a grave. The soldier sees the Reaper, and starts shooting his machine guns at it. The Reaper cuts the soldier ghost right in half, and goes after Lucy. Lucy has managed to get the handcuffs off, and has gotten into the front seat. Frank takes the ghost machine guns, and starts blowing the Reaper to bits. He throws the machine guns down when he thinks the thing is destroyed, but one part of it, the face, is still moving. Frank picks it up and shouts at it, “Who are you?!”

Then, he realizes it’s Johnny Bartlett. Bartlett pulls most of himself back together, and fights Frank; punching him, choking him… Frank gets its sickle, and hits it with it. The ghost under the suit is just Johnny Bartlett, and Frank is about to finish him off, when he’s suddenly yanked from the scene.

The next scene shows Frank trying to gasp for air, covered in frost, laying on the floor of the freezer. Lucy and her colleague are frantically working to revive Frank.

“I didn’t get him,” Frank gasps.

“Who, Frank?” Lucy asks.

“Johnny Bartlett… he’s back,” Frank says. The doctor thinks he’s hallucinating, but Lucy knows better. Frank tells her to go get Patricia out of the house.

Lucy does as she’s told, and goes to Patricia’s house. Johnny is there with her, though Lucy can’t see him. Patricia tells Lucy that her mother will be down soon, and they can all leave together. “Let me get my coat,” Patricia says. She goes into the kitchen, and Johnny motions to the kitchen knives.

“You kill her… I’ll watch,” he says, giving Patricia the biggest knife. Lucy goes upstairs to ask Mrs. Bradley if she’s ready to go… and finds her dead. (Did Patricia use Frank’s knife to kill her mother?) Lucy screams, and turns around to nearly be stabbed by Patricia. She runs away from her, and to the stairs. The shape under the stairs stops her, though, choking her. Frank runs into the house, sees the rug choking Lucy, and comes to her rescue. He struggles with it, and then throws it down. Patricia has her mother’s shotgun, and starts blowing holes in the door to the room she’s locked in. Frank and Lucy find refuge in Patricia’s room… and see an urn with Johnny Bartlett’s ashes. The ghost tries to choke Lucy again, and Frank pulls it off of her. It starts choking Frank, so he crashes the painting it’s hiding in over a statue, and Johnny’s ghost goes back into the urn. Frank closes the top, and says they have to get to a church.

“There’s a chapel in the old hospital!” Lucy tells him. They run there as fast as they can, and once inside, Frank starts seeing visions of the hospital thirty years before. He sees Bartlett get a gun out and shoot a man. Frank throws himself in front of the man to try to save his life, but Frank is the ghost in this time. Lucy watches him throw himself into a wall, and wonders what’s wrong with him.

They head to the chapel together, but on the way, they get split up. Dammers grabs Lucy and covers her mouth. Lucy hits him finally, and runs away from him, hiding in an old-style elevator.

Frank hides under a bed, as Patricia looks for him. Frank again sees a vision again of thirty years before. He sees Patricia and Johnny working together to kill the people there, and he sees Patricia mark the victim’s foreheads with numbers.

As soon as Patricia gives up finding him, Frank finds the chapel, and is about to throw the ashes into it, when Dammers shows up. Frank drops the urn, and Dammers catches it… and opens it. The ashes float away, letting Bartlett back out. Dammers pulls as Uzi out, and shoots Frank three times in the arm. Frank runs, and Dammers comes after him. “Turn around, Bannister! I don’t want to shoot you in the back! Turn around!” Frank sees Patricia on the other side of the hall, holding her shotgun, so he turns towards Dammers. He sticks his foot in a hole in the floor, and lets himself fall backwards. Patricia shoots Dammers and kills him, and Frank falls through the floor… and through another floor… and through another floor…and through another floor. He lands on something somewhat soft, but is unconscious.

Lucy gets to Frank as quickly as she can, but Patricia hits her with the butt of her shotgun. Patricia points the gun at Frank’s face, and suddenly he remembers what happened to his wife. The Reaper had dragged him and his wife from their car, and killed Debra. Then, Patricia had carved the number 13 in Debra’s forehead with Frank’s utility knife.

“You killed her,” Frank whispers to Patricia and Johnny.

“Yeah, you’re next pal,” Johnny says back. But, Patricia’s out of bullets (finally. She had about a million, it seemed like). Patricia hits Frank several times with the gun, and then puts the barrel under his chin, and starts choking him. After a few seconds of fighting Patricia, Frank goes limp. Patricia throws him down, and kicks his foot. Frank is dead.

Lucy is sobbing, calling for Frank. “You’re 42!” Johnny says to Lucy in a sing-songy voice. Patricia is about to kill Lucy, when Frank’s ghost comes up behind her, and pulls her ghost out. The bright light comes back, and Frank pulls Patty up into it.

“Come and get her, you coward!” he shouts at Johnny. Johnny comes after him, up the tunnel of light. When they get near the top, Frank is pulled up, and Johnny and Patty stay in the beam of light.

“We gotcha Frank! We’re goin’ down to get us some more!” Johnny shouts at Frank. The blue light turns red, and they are swallowed by a giant worm-like creature, and it disappears back down into Hell.

Frank sees Cyrus and Stuart, wearing new clothes and looking very happy. Then, he sees Debra.

“Hello, Frank,” she says. “You need to go home.” Frank looks around, and then at her.

“I am home,” he whispers.

“Ahhhh… no,” Cyrus and Stuart say, and push him away from Debra. “The authorities have informed us that it’s just not your time yet.” They push him, after saying, “Start living, Dude.”

Lucy is shown, her arms under Frank’s head, crying over him. His eyes open, and she gasps. “Frank!” She lays her head over his heart, and cries happy tears. As the screen pans back, it shows Frank has cuts on his forehead, above his ear, blood oozing into his hair and from the gunshot wounds in his arm…

Then, Frank and Lucy are sitting on a blanket, watching Frank’s house being torn down. Lucy kisses Frank just as the police chief shows up. He says he’s sorry to interrupt them, but had an idea: Frank could help him write a book about all that had happened!

Frank says he doesn’t think so, so the police chief gets back in his car. “Well, I’ll see ya, Frank!” he says, and pulls away. Milton Dammers’ ghost is sitting in the back seat.

Lucy comments that Dammers looked mad. Frank laughs and nods… and then frowns. “Well, I guess that sometimes when you go through a traumatic experience, it sort of… alters your perception,” she tells him. Then, Lucy picks up the blanket they’d been sitting on, and comes after Frank.

“No–no,” he says, and starts running. She playfully chases him, right up to the screen, and the movie ends.

The End

–Kackie L. Saunders
9/8/03

All original text © Copyright by Kackie L. Saunders