Frailty is easily one of my top 30 favourite films of all time, make no mistake I love this film. I decided to re-watch this for October the horror month as I actually haven’t re-watched this for a few years and I thought it was about time I visited one of my favourites again. Even though I haven’t seen this for awhile, the film loses nothing, in fact with every watch this film just seems to get better. Upon it’s original release here, I saw this twice in the cinema. My first viewing I was in love with this film, and I wanted to see it again, and after that I found myself watching it every few months. So what is it exactly that has me in love with this film? A lot of things actually, although I would say it starts with Bill Paxton. This film marked his feature film debut as director, and this just seemed like the right fit for him as director. The story was something unique and I actually loved how it fit in religion in such a strange way. You see Frailty starts off with Fenton Meiks (played as an adult by Matthew McConaughey), he walks into a police station and confronts FBI Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe), and confesses to him he knows who the ‘God’s Hand Killer’ is. As the audience we figure out there must be a serial killer known as ‘God’s Hand’, however as Doyle admits they were told by the killer they wouldn’t find any more bodies. This all sounds intriguing, as Fenton tells Doyle about a phone call he received from his brother Adam, who has since killed himself. While not actually admitting he is this killer in the phone call, Fenton begins to tell Doyle exactly how he knows what his brother has done. We flashback to when Fenton (played here by Matthew O’Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) were kids, living with their father (Bill Paxton). We learn it is only the three of them as their mother had since passed away, everything seemed normal until one night Dad wakes them up telling them an Angel had visited him with a message from God. They have to destroy demons, they will be given three weapons and a list of the demons. Fenton believes his father might not be right in the head, as soon enough he brings home a women he claims to be a demon. The killing’s begin, as Fenton doesn’t believe what is going on, while his brother Adam follows everything their father does and says.
So the film isn’t your run of the mill type, nor is it your typical horror film either. There is actually a lot here, and there is more to the story then what I have revealed, but of course to reveal more is to spoil the film (you might also want to avoid imdb as that spoils the film on the front page), and for this film you’ll want to be surprised. Unless of course you can figure things out on your own, and the clues are all there too (watching it again you can see how smart the film actually is). There is actually a lot going on in this film, and at the core it really is about a father and his sons. I do believe the father (we never find out his name) really cared for his sons, and he did everything in his power to do what was right for them. He believes in his mission from God, and what he finds out from the Angel basically has a direct affect on all of his actions. The main struggle is between father and Fenton, while he loves his son no matter what, he can’t accept that Fenton does not truly believe. The relationship between Fenton and Adam is also affected by all of this, as Adam does believe (he is younger then Fenton) and he also closely follows what father has to say. Everything does come to light as the film goes on, we find out about father’s motivations towards to the things he does to Fenton (making him dig a huge hole in the backyard for example). It also becomes clear soon enough why these demon’s they have to destroy are people, and what sort of people they are. You can make your own conclusions about certain things with this film, and I love that.
This film has a great cast, and don’t let the fact that Matthew McConaughey turn you off. This is not a rom-com nor is it a really bad attempt at a sequel to a franchise, this is McConaughey at his best. He is with us through the entire film, whether it be on screen or through his narration of the events. Here he shows what a great actor he can be with the right material and a great director. The back and forth between him and Powers Boothe is great, you can understand Doyle’s skepticism with Fenton as it isn’t every day someone just walks in claiming their brother is a serial killer and tells this unusual story. Powers Boothe is a great actor, and he is very credible as Doyle, I really liked him in this role. The kids are also quite a surprise, while they could have been annoying, they are anything but here. Not only are they both credible, they both actually make for quite sympathetic characters. I don’t think one actor out did the other, O’Leary and Sumpter both put on strong performances. O’Leary is in more of the film though, and he does carry his part well. Bill Paxton has a gift as a director, great performances from the younger actors as well as from the adults. Not only that but he himself puts on one of his best performances as the father. He sells everything to a T, upon the initial viewing of this film, I was torn between whether or not the father was crazy or if this was all real. He’s an amazing actor, and he’s made something special here.
I really can’t fault this film at all, things like pacing are perfect here, everything flows really well. Between the flashbacks and the events with Fenton and Doyle, it all comes together perfectly as is the way things are revealed to us. We basically take the seat of Doyle, we are hearing things as he is, we see things from his perspective. The flashback scenes were really well done, it certainly had that late 70’s feel to it (Fenton wanting to go see The Warriors), and it had this wash out look that made the feel of the film a little more bleak. Considering the situation we are thrown into, I think it really benefitted from that. For a film with a low budget it certainly didn’t look like it, they certainly used every cent to their advantage. There are some fantastic shots in this film, most memorable might be the scene where the father finds one of the weapons (the OTIS axe), it looks so frightening yet so beautiful at the same time. It has a subtle score, which works perfectly for the film, couldn’t have asked for anything else. For me this is a perfect film, and I can’t recommend this one enough. There is so much to get out of this film, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed by it.
Frailty was part of my Horror Films For October, you can find the entire list here.
Great review! I will definitely be checking this out, not for McConaughey, but Bill Paxton. The man has been in so many films dear to me, but always in the backgrounds and out of the spotlight. He’s one very underrated actor.