Frailty

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 5.00 out of 5)
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“Sometimes truth defies reason.”

The H-Bomb: A serial killer known as the “God’s Hand Killer” has been terrorizing the state of Texas.  Late one rainy night, the lead FBI investigator on the case, Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe), is visited by a young man (Matthew McConaughey) who identifies himself as Fenton Meiks.  Fenton tells Doyle that he believes that the God’s Hand Killer is his younger brother, Adam.  At first Doyle is skeptical, but after checking up on a few of Fenton’s claims, he starts to believe him.

From there, Fenton recounts the events from his childhood that led to his brother becoming a killer.  He and Adam grew up in a small Texas town with their widowed mechanic Father (“Boxing Helena” super-stud Bill Paxton).  They were a perfectly normal family living a perfectly normal life, when suddenly one night, Dad comes into their room and tells them a crazy story about how an angel came to him and told him that he and his sons have been chosen by God to become “demon slayers.”  He tells them that they’ll be given a list of names, names of demons disguised as people, and that it’s their mission to track them down and destroy them.

Adam, being the gullible younger brother, buys right into it, and is even excited by the idea.  Fenton, understandably, is far more skeptical, and fears his father has flipped his lid, though he tries to dismiss it as some sort of game his father has invented.  However, Fenton’s worst fears come to pass when Dad brings home a woman bound and gagged.  He takes her out to the tool shed, and then, right in front of his sons, takes the ax that “God gave him” and kills her, or, as Dad puts it, “destroys” her.

Fenton knows he needs to get the hell away from Dad and tell the police, but he can’t just abandon his little brother.  He hopes in vain that his father will just snap out of whatever this crazy spell is and that it will all just go away.  But it doesn’t.  Instead, it escalates as Dad starts bringing more “demons” home to slay, and starts demanding more participation from his sons… Fenton, in particular.  Has Dad simply gone out of his Goddamn gourd… or, could he actually be carrying out God’s will?

“Frailty”, for me, is a genuine sleeper of a horror film that is reminiscent of Hitchcock and of great religious thrillers from the past, like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist”, in that it’s as provocative as it is disturbing, with Paxton pulling double duty as both star and director.  This is his feature directing debut, though you would never guess it from how meticulously well crafted it is.  Working from a smart and creepy screenplay by Brent Hanley, director Paxton creates an eerie, closed off atmosphere and sets a deliberate, dread building pace as he takes us back and forth between the present day and the past with often clever, well thought out visual transitions.

Being that this is a story in which young children witness, and in some instances, take part in gruesome acts of violence, Paxton also demonstrated good taste by leaving the bloodshed entirely off screen.  We’ll see the ax swing down towards someone, but never the bloody results.  Not only does it not diminish the effect of the violence, it also keeps it from devolving into a cheap, exploitative gore show.

Also, unlike a number of other horror films that came out around this time period (early 2000’s), “Frailty” doesn’t rely on a major twist at the end.  Rather, there are many twists that occur throughout the story that are not twists so much as they are revelations that give new meaning to what came before.  The final revelation is one that will linger in your mind and make you think “what if” long after the film is over.

Paxton’s work in front of the camera is just as solid and nuanced as his work behind it.  He gives the father a friendly, Average Joe facade that makes him all the more scary and keeps us the audience guessing, is he insane or isn’t he?  As the child Fenton, Matt O’Leary takes a very demanding role, one of a kid carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and more than does it justice.  His performance is a complex one, working on a number of levels, that’s beyond what even many adult actors are capable of.  It’s only apparent on repeat viewings how layered his performance is, and that alone makes this film worth seeing at least twice.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Matthew McConaughey, but he’s pretty stellar as the adult narrator of the story.  In fact, I would go as far as to say this is the best performance he’s given since “A Time to Kill”, and if he did more quality films like this, and less Kate Hudson vehicles, his stock would rise with me.  Boothe plays Agent Doyle, a man with a secret or two of his own, with his usual Texas grumble, and as always, he’s awesome.

The fact that the young boys are directly involved in the many killings, along with one particular sequence of child abuse, may make this movie difficult for some people to stomach.  But if you’re sick of the typical brainless teenagers getting diced into bloody ribbons slasher flick, and are looking for a smarter-than-usual horror pic this Halloween, one with an original, engrossing story that takes a classic, old school approach and delivers some real chills, then “Frailty” is definitely one to check out.


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