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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 26.67%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 9.33%
Total Crap: 21.33%

8 reviews, 102 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"We're on an express elevator to hell, going down!"
5 stars

One of the rare perks of the lurching horror resurgence is that we occasionally get a glimpse at something special. Sure, it may be a brutal chore to sit through all the 'Urban Legend 2's, 'Scream 3's, and 'I am Still Aware of What You Did Six Summers Prior's, but if you're not a vigilant horror fan - you'll miss an excellent little movie like Frailty.

Any movie buff worth his salt knows who Bill Paxton is. To some, he's the whiney-yet-courageous Hudson from Aliens while some fondly remember the actor from Weird Science - as the evil big brother who gets turned into a disgusting green monster. Whether you remember Paxton from those films, Apollo 13, A Simple Plan or a dozen other projects, odds are that he's an actor you've enjoyed - maybe without even realizing who he is!

Despite my admiration for the actor, I was sure to watch his new flick, Frailty, with an open mind. Paxton's been in his share of turkeys; no actor has a flawless resume. But this time around, we have something unique to look for: Frailty marks the directorial debut of the longtime character actor. (Stalwart children of the 80's may remember a shockingly bizarre music video called Fish Heads. Yes, Bill Paxton directed that!)

As the movie opens we meet Fenton Mieks (Matthew McConaughey), a mellow yet wild-eyed young man who insists he knows the whereabouts of the FBI's latest quarry: The God's Hand Killer. FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) is initially quite skeptical, but Fenton's tale slowly begins to make sense. Mieks claims that his estranged brother is responsible for a series of brutal slayings and that he also has proof.

Fenton's claims require a detailed explanation of the warped childhood experienced by himself and his younger brother Adam, and this is where Frailty really gets cooking. The bulk of the film takes place in 1979 Texas, where Fenton and Adam are being raised by their good-natured and loving Dad (Bill Paxton). (Mom passed away years ago.) The father and sons live a pleasant, albeit unexceptional, life until one dark night when Dad wakes the boys up with some alarming news.

As sanely as explaining how to boil an egg, Dad tells his young sons that he has been visited by angel; that the three of them have been blessed with a sacred duty; and that their next step would be to help rid the world of demons. Dad explains all this quite matter-of-factly, and then tells the boys to go back to sleep. Fenton is disturbed by the incident, while young Adam simply takes the news at face value; surely his Daddy could never be wrong about something like this. The older brother holds out hope that Dad's late-night visit was perhaps a beer-inspired aberration, but those hopes are dashed when his father arrives home one night with an axe...and a struggling "demon" in human form.

I could divulge further details without actually spoiling anything, but in this case, I'd rather not take that chance. Much like other recent horror flicks (The Others and The Sixth Sense), Frailty utilizes a meticulous framework to alternately shield and expose some truly delicious plot twists. Little details that seem innocuous at first take on deeper meaning once the credits start to roll, and the ending offers a sense of surprised satisfaction.

The twisty (but never tangled) screenplay by first-time screenwriter Brett Hanley full of clever duplicity and realistically-written characters. There are no glaring lapses in plot logic or hastily thrown-in contrivances. Up to (and including) the thought-provoking finale, Hanley's script never once rambles, pontificates, or panders. I don't care what kind of movie you're making; a script like this one deserves high praise indeed.

As the docile (yet still spooky) Fenton, Matthew McConaughey (Contact) delivers one of his finest performances to date, and Powers Boothe is surprisingly effective as the untrusting Doyle. The two young actors who play Fenton and Adam as children - Matthew O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, respectively - are gloriously free of the preciousness or unrealistic worldliness so prevalent in most child performers, and Bill Paxton is simply great as "Dad". It's a truly difficult role, in that Dad has to be seen as perfectly clear-headed, responsible, and logical...even while he's wielding an axe and carrying his "demons" to a brutal death.

Considering that he's worked for such talented filmmakers as James Cameron, Sam Raimi, Carl Franklin, and Walter Hill, it should come as no surprise that Paxton has picked up some filmmaking skills along the way. What is impressive is how sure-handed Paxton seems behind the camera. The 1979 period design is authentic down to the most minute detail, yet the specifics are never flashed onto the screen as if to scream "LOOK! It's the seventies!" The spooky bits are handled with entertaining aplomb, evidence that Paxton probably learned something new on every horror flick he ever starred in. Regardless of the fact that Paxton has been in over 50 movies, he's still a first-time director, and with Frailty he delivers a 3-run homer his first time to the plate.

OK, I covered all the basics: plot, tone, actors, writers, director, etc. - All that fancy movie review stuff. But here's the deal: I loved this movie. You could chalk some of my feelings up to my being a big fan of Paxton's, but I'd never gush over a movie just because I like the leading man. Frailty works in a dark, gothic, and joyously hypnotic style - one that's painfully absent from most modern horror flicks. I don't know if Frailty will turn Bill Paxton into an A-list director, but he can rest contentedly with the knowledge that he's made at least one damn fine horror movie, one that easily ranks among the best movies of the year.

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originally posted: 04/13/02 08:19:07
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User Comments

9/30/17 Langano A hidden gem. 4 stars
9/16/17 morris campbell some good twists the demons were real 3 stars
1/29/15 Simplefilmreviews Great horror Gem 5 stars
3/13/14 Phil M Afficionado Pretty hokey, and confusing to boot. Mot my thing when they play games with the viewer 2 stars
12/26/12 Ionicera disturbing look into a religious fundamentalist mindset 3 stars
6/24/11 Mfan I can't get past Bill Paxton's acting. Could've been a t 3 stars
12/29/09 Chad Dillon Cooper One of the best fims of the past two decades. 5 stars
8/21/09 Jeff Wilder Intriguing premise. Ending kind of flat 3 stars
7/20/09 Natalie SUCKED!!! 1 stars
1/20/09 Camilo Espinoza Great 5 stars
8/03/08 Doug Boring, uneventful, unoriginal, inconsequential 1 stars
8/23/07 ahnold Who possibly denigrates this movie? Well-acted and well written. might have to use ur brain 5 stars
1/28/07 mets1986 Unbelievably good horror flick.......... 5 stars
12/19/06 Kris D Amazing film. Obviously too intelligent for some people. 5 stars
10/17/06 AJ Muller Paxton makes a great movie - and a classic horror flick - his first time up. Bravo. 5 stars
8/21/06 Gene Pretty Good 4 stars
4/05/06 Steven murray Some peope think the demons were real but their dad was just looney tunes! and a drunk too 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Overrated. Paxton and Powers are great. Story is too pretentious. 2 stars
11/11/05 Dan Smith Great twists and turns, Congrats to Bill Paxton on his debut. 5 stars
10/07/05 Cacador Shit 1 stars
8/08/05 *Jena Marie* I liked it. There is to much crappy horror flicks out there. But I thought this was good. 4 stars
6/22/05 keith bill paxton is a terrible actor. and this movies plot is terrible also. 1 stars
6/12/05 Manu Ginobli kicks all kinds of ass. 5 stars
5/27/05 bob bad 1 stars
2/22/05 R.W. Welch Acting is O.K., but plot is too contrived for its own good. 3 stars
1/31/05 Abbath Very interesting, even if heavily flawed. Idea is interesting though. 4 stars
1/23/05 Phil M. Aficionado Good effort undermined by contrivances and plot holes; spare me the supernatural stuff. 3 stars
10/31/04 Monster W. Kung One of the worst movies ever made. 1 stars
10/08/04 jack springer dark, bruding....a craft so well done able to match carpenter-and even outdo him. must see! 5 stars
8/05/04 Ray~Ray Pretty good I thought. Guess I'm an idiot. 4 stars
7/21/04 magaafi woot! go bill &matt!! 5 stars
5/06/04 J.Peckerfoot Surprising. 3 stars
5/05/04 Echo Collin This is one of my least favorite movies of all time. Predictable, bad script, the works. 1 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Very underrated! 4 stars
12/22/03 Ravenheart I found this quite entertaining. 4 stars
11/03/03 American Slasher Goddess The best movie of 2002. 5 stars
10/23/03 Frostbite Falls Disturbing - Didn't like it at first, but couldn't stop watching 4 stars
10/23/03 chris spooky! 5 stars
10/19/03 Lord Chu Very, very good film. 5 stars
10/19/03 Monster W. Kung John Linton Roberson got it right. This is an abysmal movie without any intelligence. 1 stars
10/18/03 John Linton Roberson Total crap, professionally photographed. 1 stars
9/16/03 Charles Tatum Paxton's direction impresses 4 stars
8/07/03 Diego Sandoval I still keep thinking.... 2 days after watching the movies 5 stars
7/31/03 Nicole Found this movie very disturbing and revolting 2 stars
7/16/03 christien gagnier fantastic movie, whenever it is on cable I can't stop watching it 5 stars
5/24/03 Mihai the best movie this doubt.. 5 stars
4/13/03 Dr. Zinn Very cool flick. Enjoyed every minute! 4 stars
4/13/03 Jack Sommersby Ludicrous and banal. It looks good, but the story is distressingly dumb. 2 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Gotta love Paxton's "close to the vest" performance. Fun movie. 4 stars
3/23/03 LMAN1060 Great !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/17/03 Paul Coleman Much better than I thought it would be. 4 stars
1/24/03 venkman Deliciously disturbing... wonderfully directed. Paxton shines. 5 stars
1/20/03 KCobain Don't listen to the haters. This is intense and thrilling. 5 stars
1/17/03 Kathy Roper loved this movie 5 stars
1/12/03 othree good ole fashioned serial killer americana, solid 4 stars
12/23/02 E-Rock If there really was a God, he'd have prevented this stink bomb from reaching theaters... 1 stars
12/23/02 NoMargin Worst film I've seen this year 1 stars
12/16/02 Jim Thought-provoking mind fuck. YOU'RE not a demon, are you? 4 stars
12/15/02 Uter All too realistic depiction of intolerant fundamentalism taken to its logical extreme. 5 stars
11/26/02 Jarran Heywood Excellent film, original subject and well played out. 4 stars
10/15/02 Josh a terrific debut from Bill Paxton. A chilling piece of work. 5 stars
10/11/02 Stefany this film was thrilling, original, and powerful 5 stars
9/30/02 amandanine Did "Dad" get a hold of Santa's "naughty and nice" list? Stupid story. Predictable movie. 2 stars
9/24/02 PROFWOOD1 excellent & thought provoking. A real gothic gem 5 stars
8/25/02 Monster W. Kung Tiresome first part, absurd second part. Not vert good at all. 2 stars
8/16/02 alien Candace: that doesn't make it a bad movie. I waited too long to see this. 5 stars
8/11/02 Film Guy This is on of the top 3 best movies 5 stars
7/30/02 beany The best horror film in years 5 stars
7/12/02 Mr Math Candace: You're wrong. It implies he THINKS he was in the right. Solid flick. 4 stars
7/04/02 Kyle One of my all time favorites... 5 stars
6/18/02 Candace Troy Powers Didn't any mouth-foaming adorer catch on? It implies the brutal killer was in the right! 1 stars
6/14/02 Ashley Corpening What Scott Weinberg calls "surprised satisfaction" I'd call more like aghast dismay. 1 stars
5/15/02 Lexy Z I expected more than what I got. This creepy film was, like the reviewer said, flawed. 3 stars
5/13/02 Georgio The story is out of control. It makes it very frustrating. 3 stars
4/28/02 Ricky Wasn't very scary, but it was still a very good movie. 5 stars
4/27/02 Chuck&Fran Very Good Movie, but don't expect a horror movie in the traditional sense. All acting supu 4 stars
4/26/02 mohaamed what a great movie... it was so complete and fulfilling... and it was actually goddamn good 5 stars
4/25/02 Brian Kissinger A great film. Paxton did a great job both in front of and behind the camera. 5 stars
4/25/02 soulfood69 Provocative entry in the serial killer genre with a great ending 4 stars
4/24/02 LaTissa Miller I loved this movie. I left the theater wanting to see it again and Bill was awesome. 5 stars
4/23/02 Danielle Ophelia Ow! I'm so glad my friends talked me into seeing this with them. 5 stars
4/22/02 puckfreak Lame, boring, and pretty predictable. 2 stars
4/22/02 malcolm almost as disturbing as 'Natural Born Killers,' what film did Lucky watch? 4 stars
4/21/02 Romance Reader Daring and well-acted. Kudos to those kids! 5 stars
4/21/02 Film Dude Guess what, you can burn in hell Lucky! This was the best movie I've seen in years! 5 stars
4/21/02 Gibbo Wonderful - compelling drama - terrific ending. 5 stars
4/21/02 Film Guy This was a dark disturbing yet Excellent film 5 stars
4/21/02 ajay I haven't seen Bill Paxton this good since Aliens, "Game Over, Game Over!!" 4 stars
4/20/02 Nick2k saw it for the second time, and its still good baby! 5 stars
4/20/02 J Lefy me with some VERY mixed feelings, not the worst thriller. But not the best either. 3 stars
4/20/02 God Fucking fantastic film! I knew it would be great! 5 stars
4/20/02 Holly Hansen Lucky's right......IT SUCKS!!!! 1 stars
4/19/02 Styopa plodding, predictable, unscary. TOTALLY UNSUBTLE. 2 stars
4/18/02 epixsavior more of a high thought provoking drama with near brilliant story 5 stars
4/18/02 NoRefill Not disturbed. Interested and slightly intrigued, but not freaked out. 3 stars
4/17/02 gs44 LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY!!!!! 3 stars
4/16/02 gyro_44 Deeply disturbing; outstanding debut from Paxton 5 stars
4/15/02 Nathan First movie in years to freak me out 5 stars
4/14/02 Keith Very good horror film. 5 stars
4/14/02 Greyjack Very good, rock solid until the very end---pacing for the epilogue felt slightly off. 4 stars
4/13/02 JB I really didn't know. I even laughed at the trailers. Best of the year so far. 5 stars
4/13/02 Michaelb14 Disturbing on Several Levels 5 stars
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  12-Apr-2002 (R)



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