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When we first meet Patricia Ann Bradley in The Frighteners, she seems to be a timid soul, under attack by both the Grim Reaper and her stern, controlling mother, who refuses to let her out of the house for her youthful entanglement with local murderer Johnny Bartlett. Despite being in her 40s, she has a childlike innocence and vulnerability to her, with her messy hair and oversized sweaters.
Up until the moment that we realize that she is decidedly not innocent of Bartlett’s crimes, when Patty changes out of those oversized knits and into a stunning green dress in a deeply unsettling moment. In a film whose costuming philosophy of “WELL IT’S THE '90s” has so far only boasted the singular high point of the local newspaper editor’s Ab Fab ensemble, this dress stands out.
Throughout the film, we flash back to Bartlett’s murder spree in the '60s, slowly seeing more and more of the then-teenage Patty’s involvement. This dress — styled with a black long-sleeved shirt underneath and long, loose hair parted down the middle — effortlessly recalls the '60s without putting too fine a hair on it, visually linking Patty to her (shudder) heyday. But she’s managed to keep up with the times: Her black tights and combat boots carry a whiff of then-contemporary grunge.
Maybe the most stunning thing about it is how Dee Wallace wears it: After spending most of the film shrinking, she’s incandescently savage and gleeful, stalking and screaming as she sets out to kill our heroes with her ghostly boyfriend. After spending most of the film hiding herself, this dress is the first declaration that our villain is done playing. Patty certainly deserves to go to hell at the end of The Frighteners (cool dress, STILL MURDER THO), but, man, if she doesn’t go out in style.