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Turbine Media’s Edition of The Frighteners on 4K is So Good, It’s Scary

Feature Presentations: Episode 65

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on The Frighteners from German distributor Turbine Media.

The Turbine Media packaging for The Frighteners.

As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of The Frighteners comes from a review copy that Turbine Media provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve seen many films at the theater during my lifetime. I don’t recall every visit to the cinema, but certain movies stick with you for one reason or another. For some reason, my recollections of cinematic offerings from 1996 hold near and dear to my heart more than most other years. Maybe because it hit me at a certain age or the types of films, there’s something about 1996 releases that resonates with me. One movie that stands out is Peter Jackson‘s 1996 horror/comedy, The Frighteners.

Before the film hit theaters, I was aware of Peter Jackson, mainly due to the reputation of Braindead and a fleeting recollection of Heavenly Creatures, but I wasn’t a hardcore fan of his. Come the summer of 1996, I got my first theatrical taste of the mind of Peter Jackson, and it was glorious. The balance of comedy and horror mixed together with an off-kilter sense of direction gave me a cinematic experience unlike any other. Yes, I’ve been a fan of The Frighteners for over 25 years and will be for another 25.

In 2005, Peter Jackson and Universal Studios released a dual-side disc DVD of The Frighteners director’s cut. While I was curious to see the difference between the original and director’s cuts, what piqued my interest more was the addition of a feature-length making-of documentary. And holy smokes, it’s more than feature-length—we’re talking four hours! I understand this feature came about for the Laserdisc release, but it escaped me until this DVD release. I’ve seen many documentaries tracing the history of a film’s production, but “The Making of The Frighteners” sets such a high bar that few have yet to match.

Unfortunately, with this 2005 release, the only option for watching the feature is via the director’s cut. There are film versions where the director’s cut improves on the original, and there are times when the theatrical cut is superior. It depends on the film. If you’re going to release a director’s cut on physical media, give the audience the original release as an option. I understand the expansive cost and whether or not the creator believes in the theatrical edition, but if you’re going to change a film as much as The Frighteners changes between cuts, having both versions is vital to those purchasing the disc.

Milton holds out his agency badge towards the camera.

Reading those words, you can surmise that I am not a big proponent of The Frighteners director’s cut. As mentioned, this edition is 12 minutes longer and, while offering some intriguing ideas here and there, slows down a movie that’s already pushing two hours. Much of the footage happens in the first half and isn’t essential to the plot. You get a possessed chicken, a grim reaper fake-out, Michael J. Fox‘s Frank threatening to urinate on Cyrus’s head, and more.

The one facet that offers a new dimension within the film comes from a removed character moment involving Jeffrey Combs‘s Milton. While in the graveyard with Trini Alvarado’s Lucy, Milton discusses a swastika on his hand (digitally altered in the theatrical cut) and his work infiltrating cults as part of his job duties. By the time this sequence comes about, the film needs to move along and, as mentioned, slows down the pacing. I enjoy having the option to watch the director’s cut, but the theatrical film is my preferred viewing experience.

In an earlier article, I posited about the idea of going region-free. The idea of opening up your physical media options is enticing; international releases are now at your fingertips, it could prove to be a financial headache for certain people. I’ve gone down this rabbit hole, conflicted at balancing purchases for collector’s sake versus whether or not I need the actual release. It’s an ongoing struggle, but when something like this comes along, it’s easier for me to say going region-free is the right choice.

After many years in my collection, I’m no longer bound by only having the director’s cut of The Frighteners. Thankfully, I can retire my 2005 DVD with the release of Turbine Media’s six-disc 4K/Blu-ray release of The Frighteners. You read that right, six discs, including the theatrical cut! Before we get into the discs, let’s talk about the packaging.

Turbine Media released The Frighteners in two separate, individually-numbered limited edition box designs: the original theatrical art and newly-commissioned artwork. As a bonus, whichever box design you choose, the new or original art, the slipcase holding the discs, features the alternate design. It’s a nice touch. The box also comes with a J-card detailing the features of this package and your individually-numbered box.

The Reaper emerges from a mirror and reaches into a man's chest.

Inside the box, a treasure trove of goodies lay in wait. Of the small bits, you get a replica of Frank’s business card from the film, a handful of postcards, and two fold-out posters; one with the theatrical one-sheet and the other with the new artwork design.

To top it off, Turbine Media includes a 196-page with production details and photos on gloss paper. I haven’t seen a book in a physical media release like this one in quite a while. There is a lot here and plenty for those looking to satiate more Frighteners than they can handle. The one caveat to this, as this release comes from Germany, all of the writing is in German. For me, it’s not much of a deal to scan the book with a translator, but this might turn away some interested in this release. If you can deal with using translation software while reading, you’ll enjoy this book.

Now that we got the bells and whistles out of the way: let’s dive into the main course. As mentioned, this set features six discs, two 4K UHD, and four Blu-ray discs. The theatrical and director’s cuts each get their own 4K UHDs and separate Blu-rays. Turbine Media adds something noteworthy: each of the six discs contains individual artwork expressly for their respective disc. A small detail, I know. Little touches such as these work well to create such a spectacular release.

The director’s cut comes on one 4k UHD and one Blu-ray disc. The 4k is region-free, which should play on any 4K player, while the Blu-ray is Region B. The audio commentary Peter Jackson recorded in 2005 has been ported over to the Blu-ray and 4K. Jackson starts the track by stating this is his first-ever track before diving into the film’s production. He discusses shooting in New Zealand, the differences between the theatrical and director’s cuts, and honest assessments about what he did well and where he could have done better. For his first commentary, Jackson does an excellent job filling the runtime with entertaining details, comments, and asides. These discs also include the trailers for The Frighteners.

The theatrical cut comes with one 4k UHD and one Region B Blu-ray. There are no features on this disc aside from the film’s trailers.

Johnny's face as ecto-plasm smiles while splattered on a grave stone.

The fifth disc, which contains the supplemental material, is low on features but high on quality. The aforementioned four-hour documentary, “The Making of The Frighteners,” is ported over along with a newly-conducted, ninety-minute additional behind-the-scenes feature, “No Way to Make a Living,” developed specifically for this release.

If you’ve never seen “The Making of The Frighteners” and are a connoisseur of film production like myself, you owe it to yourself to give it at least one viewing. The doc features a copious amount of behind-the-scenes footage comprised of interviews featuring most of the cast and crew, all aspects of the feature film that went into this documentary. I could spend all day discussing aspects of “The Making of The Frighteners,” so I won’t bore you with a moment-by-moment breakdown. Highlights include how the blue screen effects mesh with the live-action characters, bloopers, and a (rightfully) deleted character. It’s excellent and gets my highest recommendation.

The newly-commissioned documentary exclusive to this release, “No Way to Make a Living – A Look Back at The Frighteners,” is a 90-minute discussion with various cast and crew members. While some may look at this feature and compare it unjustly to “The Making of The Frighteners.” The lesser runtime and the lack of “big names” on “No Way to Make a Living” might have people skipping it, but I beg those not to pass it by! Comprised of interviews shot over Zoom, actors Dee Wallace-Stone and Jake Busey, editor Jamie Selkirk, cinematographer John Blick, and animation supervisor Wes Takahashi discuss their work on The Frighteners. Jake Busey discusses his struggle at playing an unhinged character; Dee Wallace-Stone talks about the passing of her husband during the shoot, and Jamie Selkirk speaks about his approach to editing.

“No Way to Make a Living” works well to make a stellar physical media package even more special. It certainly will not replace “The Making of The Frighteners,” but it makes a solid addition to create a one-two punch of documentaries for fanatics of The Frighteners.

I know. I said this package has six discs, but I’ve only talked about five. The last disc on this set is unusual. Turbine Media has included an “open matte” version of the director’s cut approved by Peter Jackson. I can’t say having an “open matte” edition of The Frighteners is essential viewing, but the inclusion of this is not typical and makes this package even more special. Jackson’s intended 2.35:1 is still the way to go with the film, but having this alternate version at your fingertips is exciting if you’re a cinephile.

Ray looks ahead with a glowing '37' on his forehead.

And there you have it! My lord, what a beast of a set! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought The Frighteners would get such a loving physical media release. I understand this is a German release, and it can be a bit pricey, but if you are as much a fan of The Frighteners as I am, no edition comes close to touch Turbine Media’s six-disc limited edition set. It ports over most of the existing extras, adds an additional documentary and packages the film into a sturdy box and tops it off with additional goodies that, while not essential, elevates this release to a premium level. Depending on your situation, going region-free may not be a sustainable option, but releases like this are where exceptions can be and and are why I will always support physical media.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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