Frailty (2001) – By Brian Morton

Alright, so since this issue of Rogue Cinema is coming out right after Halloween, I thought I’d take a look at a movie that actually scared me, which if you know me at all, you know isn’t all that easy to do. I’ve spent years desensitizing myself by viewing and re-viewing horror movies, so it’s a great thrill when I come across that rare movie that can still send a chill up my spine and get me to jump in surprise. And this is one of those movies that will not only scare you, but leave you thinking when you leave it. Now, normally, I’m not a fan of thinking, in any form, but for Frailty, I’m going to make an exception.

Now, I know you’re going to think that I’m a stooge for any kind of movie made in or about Texas, since I’m a huge fan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that doesn’t really enter into this. Frailty, while set in Texas, is a horror movie with a different twist, it has all the ear-marks of your run of the mill slasher movie, but it adds in a level of the supernatural that makes this more than a horror movie while maintaining the chills and horror that I so love. This is the story of Bill Paxton and his two sons. Bill is a single, working class father who is just trying to get by, when one day an angel visits him at work and tells him that he’s a great warrior and will be called on to kill demons that are walking the earth among us doing great evil. Now, here’s the catch the demons look like regular people to everyone except Bill. So, we’re not really sure if he’s a killing demon or if he’s just killing people. Now before you start on me, this isn’t just a Bill Paxton running around killing people, although that wouldn’t be that bad. This is really the story of a father, who we assume is somehow mentally ill or disturbed in some way and the affect that that has on the kids he’s raising.

You see, of the two sons, the younger one believes in his father absolutely and is ready to be a super hero for God, but the older son is pretty sure that dear old dad has lost a couple of pancakes off the short stack, if you know what I mean, and is willing to go along with the killing demons routine until dear old dad actually shows up one night with a person who he says is a demon, but looks to us and his sons like a normal everyday person. You see, the demons look like normal people until Bill lays his hands on them and then he can see them for what they really are. Now, this is where it starts getting weird and uncomfortable. As the audience we’ve been asked to identify with the kids and when Bill uses the axe that God gave him for demon killing, we don’t get to see the axe strike the ‘demon’, we are forced to watch two young boys, who are watching their dad hack someone apart with an axe. Now, this might sound a little lightweight, but it’s a little more unsettling to watch the kids than it would be to see what Bill’s doing with his axe.

Now, while we’re hearing the story of Bill and his two kids hunting demons and killing them, we’re also watching a story about Matthew McConaughey, who is one of Bill Paxton’s kids all grown up, telling an FBI agent the story of the God’s Hand Killer, who has been randomly killing people for years without being caught. Now, Matthew believes that this serial killer is his brother who has taken up the mantle of their father and is out ‘killing demons’. This may sound like a convoluted and confusing story, but this is one of the most intense horror movies I’ve ever seen. The stories blend together very well and you’re not sure exactly where it’s going until the end and then there’s a twist ending that will leave you wondering if what you’ve just seen was a fantasy or if it’s all real. It’s a great horror movie that doesn’t rely on the standard horror movie devices to get the scare. It’s a horror movie, but it’s a whole lot more than that too. It’s Frailty, and it’s well worth your time in checking it out and it’s a great scary film.