->''"Death ain't no way to make a livin'!"''
->--'''The Judge'''

A [[TheNineties 1996]] horror/comedy film from Creator/PeterJackson, director of ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'' (2001-2003) and ''Film/KingKong'' (2005).

Creator/MichaelJFox is Frank Bannister, a fraudulent [[WhoYouGonnaCall freelance exorcist]] who's not ''quite'' as fraudulent as he appears. Having acquired the ability to [[ISeeDeadPeople see and communicate with the dead]] after a tragic car accident that killed his wife years ago, Frank sends his three ghostly accomplices--white n' nerdy Stuart (Jim Fyfe), black swinger Cyrus (Chi [=McBride=]) and cowboy corpse The Judge (John Astin)--to wreak paranormal havoc in the homes of wealthy clients-to-be. These people call Frank, he shows up to perform a phony exorcism, then leaves with the cash. He's the world's greatest con man...until dozens of perfectly healthy people in his hometown of Fairwater, California start dropping dead from cardiac arrest--the very ''same'' people who suddenly acquired numbered tattoos on their foreheads that only Frank can see.

Soon after one of these victims, Ray Lynskey (Peter Dobson), becomes a ghost and pleads Frank to help him find his way toward [[GoIntoTheLight The Light]], Frank and his undead buddies discover the cause of the phenomenon: A malicious spirit in the form of TheGrimReaper ([[SinisterScythe scythe]] and all) has gone on a mad killing spree, literally squeezing the life from his victims' hearts. And not only that, it appears he has the ability to [[DeaderThanDead even kill ghosts]] by forcing them to move on to the next world. Frank and Dr. [[LoveInterest Lucy Lynskey]] (Trini Alvarado), Ray's widow, hatch a radical plan to put an end to the murders, but along the way, they must deal with Milton Dammers (Creator/JeffreyCombs), a maniacal FBI agent (basically a cross between [[Series/TheXFiles Mulder]] and [[UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler Hitler]]) who believes that Frank is psychically killing the murder victims, and will go to {{Hell}} and back to see him brought to justice.

John Astin is the adoptive father of Sean Astin, who would go on to play Sam Gamgee in ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings''. According to Sean, it was John who persuaded him to take the role because he (John) had enjoyed working with Jackson so much.
!!This film provides examples of:

* AbandonedHospital: The finale, [[spoiler:the site of the killers' original rampage]].
* AdamWesting: RLeeErmey as himself.
* AdrenalineMakeover: Lucy goes from frumpy woman in an unhappy marriage to hot widow after her husband's death.
* AgentMulder: Dammers is somehow convinced that Frank is using his powers to kill people by stopping their hearts and then summons an image of TheGrimReaper to absolve himself of guilt.
* TheAllegedCar: Frank's "pus-yellow" junker.
* ArbitrarySkepticism: The rich lady who is Frank's second attempted on-screen con. Despite having witnessed, firsthand and not ten minutes before, things flying through the air (including her children) with no explanation, she immediately disbelieves the moment she sees a newspaper headline calling Frank a fraud.
* AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: "Killing" a ghost simply forces them to move on to the next life.
* AshesToCrashes: [[spoiler:[[DefectiveDetective Dammers]] dumps out Bartlett's ashes on purpose to get Frank's goat, not realizing he just let the BigBad out to play]].
* AssholeVictim: Magda Rees-Jones, the editor-in-chief of the ''Fairwater Gazette'' who seems to have it out for Frank. If she hadn't been so eager to believe the absolute worst of him (and to get shrill and aggressive about it), she might have survived. Well, at least a little longer. Her desire to be a bitch is such that even as she realizes she's dead and is [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence ascending to the next plane]], all she wants to do is scream at him.
-->'''Magda''': (''to Frank, as she's pulled into the light'') Is this how you get your kicks? Bannister, did it feel good killing your wife? You're a ''MUUUUURRRRDDDEEEERRRRRR''!!!!
** [[spoiler:Hiles, the [[DrillSergeantNasty loud and aggressive drill sergeant]] and ''de facto'' ruler of the local cemetery, has it out for Frank in much the same as Magda does. Then he gets killed by TheGrimReaper apparition.]]
* AxCrazy: Dammers, [[spoiler:Patricia and Bartlett]].
* BackFromTheDead: [[spoiler:Frank]], twice throughout the film.
* BigBadEnsemble: There's TheGrimReaper (later revealed to be [[spoiler:Johnny Bartlett]]) [[spoiler:and his [[TheDragon Dragon]], Patricia]], and Agent Dammers, who don't really work alongside each other but equally play a frustrating part in Frank and Lucy's lives.
* BlackEyesOfEvil: Dammers has these.
* BlondGuysAreEvil: [[spoiler:Bartlett]] was a blond-haired bad guy.
* BodyCountCompetition: [[spoiler:Barlett's motive, one he feels about so strongly that he [[GhostlyGoals came back from the dead to continue it]].]]
* BodyHorror: Happens to ghosts the longer they stay on the physical plane. Ray had only been dead a day or so before his skin started to decay. The Judge has been a ghost so long, his ghostly body is literally falling apart and he's gone slightly insane; it's generally {{played for laughs}}.
* BrickJoke: Cyrus complains about not being able to get new clothes or a cigar. [[spoiler:In {{Heaven}}, he's seen with a cigar and a new suit.]]
%%* ByTheEyesOfTheBlind
* CaliforniaDoubling: Inverted. While set in California, it was filmed in the port town of Lyttelton, UsefulNotes/NewZealand, a suburb of Christchurch. Frank, Lucy and Ray (as a ghost) dine at the Sign of the Takehe, a nearby manor house that, in real life, had been converted into a restaurant.
* ChekhovsGun:
** [[spoiler:Frank's utility knife]].
** The shotgun in the intro of the film [[spoiler:is used by Patricia to attempt to kill Frank and Lucy]].
* CreatorCameo: In a director's cut scene, Frank bumps into a random hoodlum played by Creator/PeterJackson.
* CreepyDoll: PlayedForLaughs during the Lynskey house haunting.
* CursedWithAwesome: Frank gained the ability to communicate with the dead after a tragic accident that killed his wife and exploited it for profit as a "freelance exorcist."
* DeaderThanDead: The "[[TheGrimReaper Grim Reaper]]" can kill people down to their souls, though all this does is force them to move on.
* DiscoDan: Cyrus, who died during TheSeventies and dresses appropriately.
* DisneyDeath: [[spoiler:Frank]], who manages to be brought back in time before his death becomes permanent.
* DistressedDamsel: Lucy, with the exceptional moment when [[spoiler:she pretends to run from Frank to distract Dammers and sprays him with a fire extinguisher while he's about to shoot Frank]].
* DrillSergeantNasty: Hiles, as played by [[AdamWesting R. Lee Ermey]].
* DrivesLikeCrazy: Frank, when he tries to save a newspaper editor from becoming the ghostly reaper's next victim, which only makes him look crazy to the editor who already hated him for his reputation as a fraud.
** He does pretty badly ''every'' time he drives. He takes his eyes off the road to paw at his business cards and nearly hits a funeral procession, and when he chases the Grim Reaper, he drives so badly that even the Judge (who is already dead) looks freaked out. And of course, he had a fight with his wife while driving that ended with a crash and him getting PsychicPowers (although [[spoiler:it was Bartlett and Patty who killed his wife]]).
* EstablishingCharacterMoment:
** Frank Bannister's very first scene is walking into someone's funeral and advertising his business.
** Milton Dammers' first scene showcases most of his eccentricities (difficulties around women, mostly), as well as his staunch belief that Frank is a murderer.
* EvenEvilHasLovedOnes: [[spoiler:Johnny Bartlett and Patricia, surprisingly. Johnny even goes to ''save'' her when her soul is pulled out of her body by Frank near the end. Doesn't make either any less twisted or insane, though.]]
* EvilSlinks: The Reaper, [[spoiler: even once revealed to be Johnny]], is humanoid most of the time, but can go all gooey and seep through cracks and crevasses.
* FlatlinePlotline: [[spoiler:Frank enlists Lucy in entering the ghost world with the aid of drugs and cryogenics to stop his heart]].
%%* FluffyCloudHeaven
* {{Foreshadowing}}: The hospital massacre mentioned in the first part of the film brings up [[spoiler:that Johnny Bartlett counted the victims he and Patricia killed]].
* FreezeFrameBonus: The cereal Frank is eating when discussing Stuart and Cyrus' grievances is, appropriately enough, Boo-Berry.
** You briefly get a glimpse at the Grim Reaper's face when he charges through Frank's car. [[spoiler:Attentive viewers will also notice that the eyes resemble the true identity of the Reaper: Johnny Bartlett.]]
* GhostlyGoals: Of the [[OmnicidalManiac omnicidal]] kind.
* GoIntoTheLight: [[spoiler:When Frank meets up with his wife in {{Heaven}}, he intends on staying, but is told it's not his time. He is sent back]].
* TheGrimReaper: The ghostly murderer [[spoiler:who is actually SerialKiller Johnny Bartlett, implied to be abusing his newfound powers in the role for the [[ForTheEvulz sole pleasure of killing people]] and [[BodyCountCompetition scoring a bigger body count]]]].
* GunsAkimbo: [[spoiler:Frank, in his ghostly form, wields two assault rifles to fight the Grim Reaper with (which had previously belonged to a ghostly RLeeErmey)]].
* TheGunslinger: The Judge.
* HappilyEverAfter: [[spoiler:Frank and Lucy get together in the end. [[EarnYourHappyEnding But holy hell, do they have to work for it]]]].
* HeroicBSOD: Frank goes through a major example of this halfway through the movie, to the point where he momentarily stops believing in his abilities (which makes them stop working). In his {{backstory}}, it's revealed he went through this after his wife died, with the end result of gaining his abilities in the first place.
%%* HolyBacklight
* HospitalHottie: Lucy is a fairly attractive doctor.
* IncrediblyLamePun:
-->They don't call me the 'Hanging Judge' for nothing!
* InspectorJavert: Dammers
* ISeeDeadPeople: Frank, [[spoiler:and when all is said and done, Lucy has gained this ability as well]].
* JacobMarleyApparel: [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] and lamented by Cyrus, who is stuck in horrible clothes he [[IncrediblyLamePun wouldn't be caught dead in]]. But [[spoiler:after being killed by the "[[TheGrimReaper Grim Reaper]]" and going to {{Heaven}}, he gets some nifty new threads]].
* JerkJock: Ray
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Ray. He might be a vain, chauvinistic and obnoxious boor, but it's shown several times that he does actually care about Lucy even if he does likely care about himself more.
** Frank himself, given that he's a con man and he bullies the ghosts who help him out with his business. The director's cut makes him out to be more of a jerk, a notable example being that he drives into the middle of a funeral procession so he can get to his next house call quicker. The Judge even [[WhatTheHellHero calls him out on it]].
* KarmicDeath: [[spoiler:Dammers, who had been hounding Frank throughout the film]], gets [[BoomHeadshot his head]] [[YourHeadAsplode blown off]] by [[spoiler:Patricia]]. The best part of it is his ghost instantly appears, head sticking out of the stump of the corpse's neck with a ''very'' surprised expression on his face.
** [[spoiler:Bartlett and Patricia]] meet a gruesome "end" when they [[spoiler:take the ''express'' bus to Hell]].
* KnightTemplar: Dammers, especially towards Frank.
* LargeHam: Most of the cast gets their moment to shine. Dammers probably takes the cake, however.
* MonsterProtectionRacket: How Frank makes a living as a con artist with the help of his three ghost buddies.
* MoodWhiplash: To so great an extent that it comes off like two movies spliced together. There's a clear point in the movie where the whole thing shifts to a darker tone, but rolls with it into [[BlackComedy pitch-black humor]].
* MultitaskedConversation: Frank is the only one who can see everyone, so this happens regularly.
* MundaneUtility: Frank uses his power to make a living as a con man.
%%* MyDeathIsJustTheBeginning
* NearDeathClairvoyance: Frank got his powers from a nearly lethal car accident.
* NerdsAreSexy: Apparently in {{Heaven}}, [[spoiler:Stu]]'s a regular ChickMagnet.
* NonStandardCharacterDesign: [[spoiler:Johnny Bartlett's ghost is a darker blue than the other ghosts in the film.]]
* NotQuiteDead: [[spoiler:Frank's plan to confront the ghostly Reaper involves deliberate flat-lining in order to fight as a ghost. Both times, he's thankfully able to revive before it becomes permanent.]]
* NotSoPhonyPsychic: Frank uses his abilities to perform fake exorcisms.
* ObstructiveZealot: Dammers will stop at ''nothing'' to antagonize Frank at every step of the way.
* OccultDetective: Dammers and, to a lesser extent, Frank himself.
* OnlySaneMan: Frank, who unfortunately has the poor luck of being unable to prove it to clear himself of the murders.
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: These ghosts are about as traditional as they get.
* PeekABogeyman: Stuart, Cyrus and The Judge.
* PlotHole: The first scene of the film where Patricia is being harmed by a ghost clashes a little with what we see later on regarding her relationship with them: [[spoiler:she and the ghost work with, and love, each other]]. The Director's Cut of the film explains this by revealing that [[spoiler: Bartlett and Patricia would play roleplay games like this shortly before making love]].
* PoliceAreUseless: Against ghosts. Much to Sheriff Perry's exasperation, this leads to them needing the no-less-useless-but-completely-unhinged liaison form the FBI to step in.
* PsychicPowers: Frank gains them as a result of his tragic accident, though Dammers seems convinced that Frank also has the ability to stop people's hearts with his mind.
* PsychoForHire: Dammers once worked as a undercover agent. The director's cut delves a little more into this.
* PunnyName: Milton Dammers, as in Creator/JohnMilton, of ''ParadiseLost'' fame. As well as Jeffrey Dahmer.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Sheriff Perry. Though obviously befuddled by dealing with a serial killer he can't fight, he knows Frank is a good man who knows his stuff, often allows Frank to do what he must and is highly resistant to Dammers' attempts to pile everything on him.
* TheReveal:
** TheGrimReaper is [[spoiler:the ghost of legendary serial killer Johnny Bartlett]].
** [[spoiler:The souls of good people can still go to {{Heaven}} even if they're "killed" by Bartlett]].
** [[spoiler:Patricia really did have a part in the murders. She's Johnny Bartlett's [[TheDragon right hand]].]]
%%* ScareChord
* SealedEvilInACan: Happens temporarily to the BigBad.
* ShoutOut: Twisted InUniverse example: [[spoiler:Johnny Bartlett compares his own body-count to those of a few RealLife serial killers and mass murderers.]]
* SinisterScythe: To match TheGrimReaper getup.
* ThoseTwoGuys: Cyrus and Stuart.
* TraumaInducedAmnesia: After his wife's death, Frank was found wandering around in the woods with no memory of what happened.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: We see Cyrus and Stuart in the afterlife, but we never see the Judge after the museum or Rusty the Dog after his intro. They had scenes later in the cemetery, and the end originally featured the Judge's upper-body riding Rusty and heading west into the sunset, but they were deleted from the movie.
* WhatTheHellHero: In the director's cut, The Judge gives Frank one of these after Frank cuts into a funeral procession.
-->I thought you had some character, son! Right now, you're not showing me a whole lot!
* WhoYouGonnaCall: Frank Bannister, "freelance exorcist"!
%%* {{Wormsign}}
* XMeetsY: At least one review described it as a mixture of ''{{Film/Ghostbusters}}'' and ''Series/TwinPeaks''.