THE FRIGHTENERS
1996, Universal, 110 min, New Zealand/USA, Dir: Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson’s follow-up to the acclaimed HEAVENLY CREATURES was this unusual mix of horror and dark comedy. Michael J. Fox stars as architect Frank Bannister, who gains the ability to see spirits after his wife’s death in an accident. At first Bannister exploits this power to set up a ghostbusting business - until he crosses paths with a dead serial killer who is still looking for victims. Shot in New Zealand (which a chunk of the film’s sizable digital effects budget turned into Middle America), the film earned eight Saturn Award nominations and features a score by Danny Elfman.


BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
1999, Universal, 112 min, USA, Dir: Spike Jonze

Director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman made their feature debuts - and earned Oscar nominations - with this surreal fantasy. When puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) gets a job at the strange LesterCorp, he discovers a secret portal leading into the mind of John Malkovich. When Schwartz’s wife (Cameron Diaz) and co-worker (Catherine Keener) learn of this, they begin using the actor to advance their own agendas.


BEAT THE DEVIL
1953, Sony Repertory, 89 min, UK/Italy/USA, Dir: John Huston

If screwball comedies were about criminal entanglements instead of romantic ones - and if they featured dialogue by Truman Capote - they would resemble this delightful adventure spoof. Jennifer Jones plays a compulsive liar traveling to Africa with her husband when she meets Humphrey Bogart, who’s been enlisted by a group of criminals (including Robert Morley and Peter Lorre) eager to acquire a uranium mine. Bogart lost a bundle of money and several teeth making the film, but it remains among the most distinctive and entertaining of his career. Costarring Gina Lollobrigida.


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