Headscratchers / The Frighteners

  • Where the heck did Johnny Bartlet get a scythe like that? Who made it? Heck, if he has a scythe that can force ghosts to move on, why doesn't Hiles have one? If its one of a kind, where did he get it?
    • I always assumed he managed to swipe it from Death/The Grim Reaper when he 'got out' of Hell, since it seems to be a major source of his power.
      • So not only was Bartlett, one single scrawny psycho, able to overpower death itself, bu the reaper didn't want it back?
      • You assume that he forced Hell to let him go. From his phrase "I got out, carrying on the good work!", the implication I took was that Bartlet was evil enough that he made a deal with Satan to go back to Earth and reap souls. Probably only good for one offer, though, since after that he'd proven ineffective.
      • Minus the speculation, this is the most likely answer. Johnny's choice of words indicate that he was likely set loose. Carrying on the duties of the Grim Reaper (taking souls to the other side) is part of the deal, and he's all too happy to comply since it means he can kill again in any case.
    • It's easiest to assume that Bartlett's 'Grim Reaper' appearance works in exactly the same fashion as the Sergeant's incredibly improbable arsenal - Certain ghosts seem able to harm each other, like the Judge's pistols and Frank when he takes up the Sergeant's weapons. So I'm of the impression that the scythe works in much the same fashion. Either ghosts have items relevant to what they were like in real life, or they can generate them.
      • The difference is between "ghosts" and "pure spirits". Ghosts are people who never went to the afterlife. Pure spirits like the Sergeant (sent back on a duty tour from heaven) and Bartlett (who escaped hell via Patricia?) have much greater powers of manifestation. The judge has his pistols for the same reason ghosts have clothes. He had them while alive and they're part of who he thinks he is.
  • How did Bartlett escape hell? "I got out". So you just "got out"? So whats to stop him "getting out" again, now he and his girlfriend are in hell? Or telling the other denizens of hell how to get out?
    • If the thing about his girlfriend contacting him was the explanation, that just makes less sense. You're telling me not one bad person in history ever had someone try to bring them back from the other side?
    • There was a riot in the yard and he slipped away in the confusion.
      • How do you riot in hell?
      • Very carefully
      • Who's to say that Bartlett was the only guy who was summoned from Hell by someone else? Apparently all that's needed to get an evil dead person back into Hell is to trick them into going into the light. It's entirely possible that other people have occasionally escaped and just were recaptured.
    • I was under the impression it was something to do with the fact Patricia still has his ashes. Either that, or Bartlett's an Unreliable Narrator and never actually went to Hell.
      • Maybe he was actually an ordinary ghost for a while, and he thought of it as Hell because he could see vulnerable people yet was powerless to attack them. Then he got hold of the scythe, and suddenly he's back in the murder business: his "Hell" of impotency as a psycho was over.
      • Patricia got him out of hell, and fairly recently from the start of the movie. I suspect the opening scene with her mother is right after she summoned him back.
      • ^Yes, pay attention. It helps with the deleted scenes in the director's cut, but the time line of the movie is pretty clear: Patricia summoned Bartlett from Hell through something ritualistic (Walt Perry notes she had Ouija boards and she was in possession of his unconsecrated ashes) around 5-6 years prior so they could continue the streak together. This is the beginning of Johnny's "tenure" as the Reaper, and their first victim together was Frank's wife. They kill 28 people in total in this resumption of the streak, up through the events of the movie. The opening scene of the movie is some years later, right in the middle of the continued streak, in present day. Perry also notes that Patricia's mother found out and sedated Patricia to control her presumably after the incident in the opening scene, or not long before it (Patricia was in custody for 5 years before this, so she couldn't have done it before summoning Johhny), but Johnny was set loose and killed regardless. Frank's knife in the mother's closet completely supports this: She took it from Patricia when she found out and started to sedate her; it is the evidence of her involvement and what her mother alludes to when she tells Lucy she could have Patricia locked up at any time she chooses despite her being exonerated on the condition she be left in her mother's custody. What is actually unclear is whether Patricia was immediately found out by her mother after killing Debra ~6 years ago, or if she started sedating her later on in the new 20-something streak.
  • Why was Johny's "score" so low? He killed 28 people over 7 years or so. But 4 of those were in a week. And 2 in a night. If he wanted, he could have beaten every serial killer in history in a month, wiping out a whole town. And then move on to another town. There was absolutely nothing that could stop him. Why pace himself?
    • Tying in to the Scythe theory above, it's possible that he wasn't able to kill anyone until after he got it. Or maybe he was just taking his time and having fun with it, only speeding up because of Frank's interference.
      • The deaths hadn't been happening all at once, they'd been happening steadily over the 7 years. That's why they said 28 deaths in 7 years, not one month. As for "taking his time", this is the same indiscriminately killing psychopath we saw at the beginning. He doesn't have a criteria, its all random, so again, what does he gain by waiting?
    • Fridge Brilliance: Serial killers often start out slowly and accelerate their killings in frequency as they go. He was just following this pattern even in death.
    • It wasn't just Johnny's score, it was Johnny and Patricia's score. It's been awhile since I watched the movie, but if I'm not mistaken, in a flashback it's Patricia who kills Frank's wife and Johnny looks like just a ghost not Grim Reaper. If so, then it's probably Patricia who had continued the bodycount until Johnny got his hands on the Scythe.
    • Patricia just got Johhny out of hell at the beginning of the movie, presumably right before the scene where her mother is killed. So he's just starting up again after being in hell for decades.
    • Actually, she most likely summoned him some years earlier (or he "got out" at least), as it was him doing all the killing between numbers 13-40, not Patricia. The pick up in the killings likely has something to do with a lax in her sedation allowing her to directly communicate again (the results of which are shown in the opening scene), as she is shown present and involved in with Johnny's murder of Debra. Patricia's mother caught wind of her daughter's involvement at some point after Debra and began to sedate her in order to keep her from communing with Barlett, which is probably the only explanation for the rather slow pace in her absence: it wasn't as fun without her.
  • If passing on is a choice, why would anyone ever choose to go to hell? And why did Johnny even go to hell to begin with? Or any other serial killer for that matter? Johnny was the first person to figure this out?
    • And it isn't impossible for evil people to just refuse to go to hell, Dammers is still there at the end.
    • Well, the rarity of the scythe isn't told, but we can see that it does have the ability to force ghosts to pass on, presumably to wherever they ought to go. So if they choose to not pass on then they're stuck in a limbo-like state on Earth with the threat of being simply forced to move on looming over their heads.
  • Why did Patricia still put up with her mother, instead of just killing her and going on the run with Johny? Why did she choose to kill her mother only when Bartlett had been discovered?
    • Before that, Patricia was trying to trick everyone into thinking she was a good girl who was unjustly persecuted. You can see throughout the movie how she tries to play Lucy like that. It's possible that she was biding her time, hoping that she could manage to get someone to just let her out of her house arrest so she could go elsewhere to continue killing. If she killed her mother and ran for it, people would be on the lookout for her. Her chances of being rearrested would probably be higher than if she was let out and legally traveled to another country before starting over as a killer. As for why she killed her mother when Bartlett was discovered, the jig was pretty much up. She knew that people had figured out that it was really her boyfriend's ashes she had, which would strongly suggest that she was still in cahoots with them. Given that she seemed pretty Axe Crazy, her thought process was probably "Well, my plan to trick everyone is scotched. Better just kill everyone who knows too much and run for it anyway".
    • It's mentioned in passing that Patricia's mother has been keeping her sedated. Probably she missed a dose to keep her daughter from acting on her homicidal desires.
    • We don't know how mobile ghosts are in this Verse; it's possible Bartlett can't manifest very far from his original stomping grounds from life. Or, at least, that Patricia thinks he can't show up outside the town where his killing spree began.
  • What the hell does Dammers believe? He believes in psychic powers but not ghosts, despite that world having no proof for psychics and huge amounts of proof for ghosts?
    • He's a cuckoo. I'm not a crazy person, so I can't explain his weird behavior.
      • It's heavily implied that he was put through severe amounts of torturous initiation ceremonies while working undercover. He probably has a heavy belief in mind over matter, considering he probably had to utilize quite a bit of that to get through the ceremonies and infiltrate the cults.
      • Also, most likely, a great deal of inherent skepticism about his initiators' cockamamie cult dogma, which Frank's legitimate belief in ghosts probably sounds a lot like to Demmers.
    • For all we know, there could be psychic powers in this Verse. The existence of ghosts doesn't preclude the existence of psychic powers; all we know is that Demmers hasn't encountered previous proof of ghosts before.
  • Does psychological evaluation just not exist in this world? The obviously insane and brittle Dammers is given not only a handgun, but a fucking Uzi? "Hey, you know that deranged psycho who's been tortured many times in his life and keeps muttering to himself about purging the world? He's the perfect operative for this series of bizarre deaths in a small town" "Of course, but he might need some heavy firepower in a rural town were the only suspect is a small alcoholic. So lets outfit him with an Uzi. This is sure to end in good things"
    • He's probably earned a lot of favors and influence by taking the crap jobs he does. Too, they may keep him on because for whatever reason they can't fire him (maybe because "Hey, we know you got yourself tortured to the edge of sanity for us, but you're kind of kooky now so GTFO" is too much even for the FBI), so they just try to send him off on wild goose chases. He does say "I get all the really... fruity... assignments." They may just hope that he'll poke around and annoy people, and that's probably all he usually does. Just that in this case, there really was weird stuff going on and it slackened his last slight grip on sanity.
    • The FBI has never issued its people Uzis, although the Secret Service did for a while. Dammers probably bought his weapon himself, or possibly confiscated it off-the-books from one of the cults he'd infiltrated.
  • Why didn't Dammers shoot Patricia? He had the gun already raised, pointing straight at her, yet he just looks at her funny and waits to have his head blown off?
    • Because A: she had a gun too. And B: He was surprised, and in those seconds it gave her time to shoot him. Remember he was chasing Frank and planned to shoot him, not knowing and not wanting to know there was another killer, so when he saw her with a gun, in his last moments he knew that Frank wasn't the killer. Plus he's an obsessed maniac.
    • Demmers only had about half a second to notice her after Frank fell over backwards, revealing her standing there. And so far as Demmers knew, Patricia was someone Frank had been harassing and had intended to shoot Frank, not him.
    • Her gun mounted light blinded him. This is the exact reason tactical lights exist. Though Patricia's flashlight is just an incandescent one and not as bright as something with white or blue LED's, but it is quite large, and how well do think you could see/discern/react if a bright light were suddenly shone in your eyes (Frank was blocking it up until he slipped through the floor, remember?).
  • Why do Cyrus, Stuart and the Judge listen to Frank if he just abuses their friendship?
    • He's the only one around who can see them. Abusive or not, he's the only person who even acknowledges that they exist.
    • Every other ghost acknowledges their existence, and none of them are making them go through degrading tasks.
      • Ghosts are probably boring to hang out with, and there's an asshole drill instructor constantly busting their balls at the cemetery. They probably have more of a Vitriolic Best Buds relationship with Frank, that's all.
  • If you get a chance to cross over annually, why didn't Stuart and Cyrus take it? Or any of the people in the cemetery?
    • Frank doesn't say you get a chance annually, he says you get another one about a year after you first die. If you're still too scared to go then or whatever, you probably just have to wait it out on Earth until you fall apart.
    • Or possibly catch a ride out on holy ground, and hope like hell you catch the right express bus.
  • Why did every single one of Bartlett's victims the first time around refuse to pass on, but all of them after did? Wouldn't the people who'd had an invisible hand strangle them to death be a bit more surprised that they're dead than the people who'd been shot in the chest?
    • The people he killed probably just thought they had heart attacks and died of natural causes or something like that. It was painful and a bit traumatic, but not nearly as much as being chased down and killed by a psycho. Remember, they can't see Johnny, even as he's plunging his hand into their chest.
    • This. The people who were murdered in the original massacre knew their deaths merited vengeance/justice. There's no call to hang around seeking justice from a heart attack.
  • If being a "frightener" pays so badly, why didn't Frank just go back to being an architect?
    • For the same reason he still lives in a half-built shell of a house and his only friends are dead. When his wife died, his life stopped, period.
    • He may have tried, but found he couldn't be creative while he was in mourning for his wife and troubled by seeing ghosts.
  • Why can Bartlett possess things, but no other ghost can?
    • I'm not sure what all the scythe nonsense is. It's explained in the movie that ghosts and pure spirits are different. Ghosts never went to the afterlife and pretty much suck, stuck to the form of their decaying bodies and what they knew in life. Pure spirits have been to heaven or hell, and can manifest themselves more strongly and alter their appearance as they see fit. Sarge is another pure spirit, sent from heaven on a tour of duty guarding the restless dead, and he has stronger powers and can manifest weaponry as well.
    • The Scythe he carries seems to let him do a lot of things other ghosts can't.
      • He starts possessing things after he loses the scythe.
      • Bartlett's probably just more determined and more flat-out evil than most of the other ghosts we see. He may have picked up a few tricks in Hell, or simply have grown powerful enough to start learning them. Age may also be a factor... along with his greater experiences, he's one of the older ghosts we see. Frank implies that the Judge has special powers that he just never gets to show off in the course of the movie, too.
  • Near the end of the movie after Patricia's shotgun runs out of shells, she grabs a pick-ax off some random table to kill Lucy. Why the hell is there a pick-ax in a hospital?
    • Possibly there was some construction or renovation that required the workers to tear up part of the floor or a wall or something and it was just left there when the hospital shut down.
    • Or somebody's been covertly looting the site for salable copper pipes and so forth, busting through the walls to get to them.
  • On a related note, if the hospital is long since abandoned, how is it the elevator still works?
    • Could be a really old elevator that works off of counterweights?
  • If you miss both chances to pass on, can you hitch along with someone when they die? For instance, you get bored with Earth and want to head to Heaven. Can you wait around a retirement home for someone to kick, and then tag along when they head into the light?
    • Probably. Some ghosts may hang around places like that hoping to catch a ride to the afterlife. But if they were too scared to go into the light on either of the times they were naturally offered a chance, they're probably too scared to do that, so.
    • Perhaps the above, but I also think you get out when your body is too badly decayed to sustain your ghost. Ghosts seem trapped in the appearance of their corpse mostly. I suspect decay eventually forces them to transcend or descend.
    • The film would seem to bear this out. When Frank "dies" in the climax, he is able to grab Patricia's soul and drag it along with him as he ascends, and Johnny follows them. So it seems any ghost can use the tunnel as soon as it appears.
  • What do you suppose Cyrus and Stuart died of? Stu looks bloodied in the face like some sort of severe trauma killed him and he was bleeding internally (I immediately thought it was, based on his appearance and this, a reference to Buddy Holly who died in a plane crash which would inflict a lot of trauma), but Cyrus just has the bagged eyes and drawn face similar to those who died from the massive heart trauma inflicted by the Reaper. Maybe he had an actual heart attack?
  • What is the point of the foreboding numbers after Barlett gets out of hell and resumes killing? It implies that he is planning on killing a predetermined target (the Reaper's behavior implies this too, and he seems hellbent on ignoring Frank and only killing Lucy when the two are together), but Bartlett was an indiscriminate murderer. Unless the "deal" he was referencing in his escape form Hell was taking over as the Grim Reaper and performing its duties, which explains both why the targets of marked for death ahead of time (fated to die) and his powers as the Reaper to ferry souls to the other side, whether they are people he killed or already dead ghosts. This flies in the face of the events in the movie though: all 28 deaths were in the same locale, indicating Johnny (even if bound to the duties of the Reaper) was more or less contained to Fairwater, possibly by Patricia's influence as she was the one that summoned him. The deaths caused by Johnny are described as unnatural by at least 3 sources (Perry, Dammers and the coroner Lucy knows). Two of the victims (Magda's junior editor and then Magda herself) are merely adjacent to each other! It seems highly unlikely any of the people killed by Bartlett are actually predetermined to die and that he's just murdering from beyond the grave, but then most of the ones we see immediately ascend to Heaven, contradicting the idea that their deaths were untimely (as all the original 12 murder victims did not as those definitely were). It just raises further questions, and it makes the numbers make even less sense. What do they mean, Mason?!?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Headscratchers/TheFrighteners