Frailty (15)

Review by Jack Foley

WHEN horror master Stephen King enthuses that he has 'never seen a movie quite like Frailty' and goes on to describe it as 'unique, thought-provoking, edge-of-the-seat entertainment', horror fans had better take notice.

The movie marks the directorial debut of Bill Paxton (star of Twister and Aliens) and is an ultra-creepy, thoroughly gripping, psychological chiller which keeps viewers guessing until the final reel.

Told in flashback by Matthew McConaughey’s Fenton Meiks, the film concentrates on the relationship between Paxton’s working class, widowed father, and his two sons - nine-year-old Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) and 12-year-old Fenton (Matthew O’Leary) - which becomes strained after Dad claims to have seen a vision from God instructing them to kill ‘demons’ posing as ordinary men and women.

But while the young and impressionable Adam embraces his mission with his father, Fenton watches from the sidelines aghast, powerless to prevent the killings, but determined to do all he can to put a stop to them, should the opportunity arise.

The story of how he succeeds (or fails) is relayed to Powers Boothe’s FBI agent, Wesley Doyle, (who has been hunting the God’s Hand murderer for years) via a series of flashbacks, and is as disturbing as it is thought-provoking throughout.

A lot of the credit for the movie’s success must go to Paxton, who helps to transform a subject matter which could so easily have become ludicrous into something that is not only believable, but morally ambiguous, forcing viewers to confront their own perceptions long after the final reel.

And he did not take the decision to take on Frailty lightly, having been aware of the possibility of a ‘wild-eyed director’ getting hold of the material and sensationalising it for no other reason than to shock.

The actor/director states: "My vision of this story has always been the idea that it is a very edgy script that pushes a lot of buttons, especially because children are involved. But I thought that’s exactly the reason to give it a real, old Hollywood approach, where all the darkness is implied instead of being explicit. We hear a chop or a scream, but we never see a drop of blood."

It is for this reason that the movie works so well, playing on the sub-conscious as well as making the viewer feel uneasy throughout, while also delivering at least one jolt to the spine guaranteed to have you leaping from your seat.

What’s more, the twisting plot contains it fair share of surprises, while its performances are uniformly spot-on, with Paxton especially good as the father, and McConaughey making a welcome return to independent film territory as the mentally-scarred brother.

Sumpter and O’Leary also handle the demands of their young roles with aplomb, making this an outstanding entry into the horror genre - the sort of which can be compared favourably to the likes of David Fincher’s Se7en and which has been described by Evil Dead director, Sam Raimi, as the ‘most frightening horror picture’ since Kubrick’s definitive, The Shining.

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