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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 Collin Souter

"Wouldn't this make a great double feature with 'Stolen Summer?'"
4 stars

“Maybe you’re not right in the head, Dad,” says Fenton to his father, who just happened to receive a visit from The Angels. This suggestion comes early on in “Frailty,” and I find it refreshing to see a horror movie where the screenplay is as smart as the people in the audience watching the movie. Maybe Dad isn’t right in the head. Maybe the characters who live in fear of him should run away. Or maybe they should stay just to keep an eye on him. These characters don’t waste a lot of time waiting to see how right or wrong Dad may be. Brent Hanley’s tight script and Bill Paxton’s taut, assured direction pulls us deeply into every scene, that we don’t have much time to think or wonder either. We know Dad’s not right in the head, but how wrong can he be?

“Frailty” tells its story in flashbacks. Matthew McConaughey plays Fenton as an adult. He narrates the story as he tells it to Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe). Fenton has just confessed to him that he knows who killed all those people in the “God’s Hand” serial murders, but his knowledge requires a back-story in order for it to be credible. We can see in Fenton’s eyes that he has grown numb from his childhood experiences, that he has carried this burden all his life.

Fenton grew up with his younger brother, Adam, and his father, known only to us as “Dad” (Bill Paxton). They have coped okay with the loss of their mother and Dad treats them as well as a father can. But one night Dad comes into their bedroom and tells them something rather alarming: He has received a visit from The Angels. The Angels want him to do away with the demons of this planet. Does this mean “kill people?” Yes and no. “We don’t kill people, son,” he says. “We kill demons. The Angels were very clear on this.”

I will try and be as vague as humanly possible with the rest of this plot outline. This is one of those movies where the less one says, the better. Not because of any major-plot-twist ending, but because this movie works beautifully when one doesn’t know too much about it. If I tell you everything, you won’t be shocked or taken by surprise. I will say this: The two kids become torn between their loyalty to their father and their fear of him. They have much to fear, but, at the same time, he has always been a good father. Also, he does seem to have a psychic connection to these “demons” he brings home with him. So, who’s to say?

“Frailty” keeps us thinking while keeping us in suspense. It has a deceptively simple script, one that doesn’t mess with too many sub-plots, but has layers upon layers of depth. An allegory on religious fanaticism and a chilling portrayal of middle America losing its grip, “Frailty” has been written so well, that even a simple “Goddammit!” near the end takes on a whole other meaning.

I made the mistake of calling “Frailty” a horror film, and that would only be painting part of the picture. “Frailty” manages to be a domestic drama, a psychological thriller, a sad story of loss and betrayal and a story of a father and son who must test their loyalty to one another, all of this under the umbrella of an horrific tale. One scene in particular where the Dad tells Fenton to, oh, let’s just say (without saying too much)...go to his room, will have viewers in tears of sadness while screaming in horror. I don’t believe I’ve had that reaction to anything in a movie since Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” another movie that defies description.

The cast for this movie is perfect. McConaughey, an actor I’ve always liked, but have seldom seen in a great movie, does a great job at narrating the story. He keeps his face mostly still, but we still wonder just by looking at him how much he is really telling us. As young Fenton and Adam Meiks, Matthew O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, respectively, have a natural chemistry. O’Leary, in particular, should be a front runner-up when casting agents have a hard time booking Haley Joel Osment.

And Bill Paxton, of whom I have been a fan since 1987 when I saw him in Kathryn Bigelow’s legendary “Near Dark,” casts himself perfectly in the role of Dad. As does Dennis Quaid, Bill Paxton knows how to play the everyman with all his sincerity. At the same time, nobody plays crazy quite like Paxton, and here he blends the two personas seamlessly. At the same time, he is a natural director and not one of these actors who has overstepped their bounds. Watch how he handles the murder scenes. We don’t see much, but just the sound of a—thwack!—gives us all the information we need. He has learned drama, suspense and even humor from all the greats he has worked with (and I believe he has worked with just about everybody).

“Frailty” stumbles in its pace a little in its third act, but that can be a common thing with thrillers such as these. Suddenly, it stops being a stunning mood piece full of dread and we’re made to put the pieces together to see if what we just sat through makes sense. It all does, and the result will most definitely surprise you. Once you have it, you’ll probably be leaving the theater questioning the morality of it all while maybe even thinking about what makes a human being decide to walk into a crowded building and blow themselves (and everyone else) up.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie doesn’t make excuses for fanatics, but merely tries to explain them a little. Fenton carries the voice of morality throughout the film, but still the movie dares us to wonder: Maybe in some cases, since we don’t know everything, to be “not right in the head” may not be so wrong after all. The very idea of this makes “Frailty” one of the saddest and scariest films in a long, long time.

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originally posted: 04/15/02 14:36:28
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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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