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Frailty (2002)
 Directed by: Bill Paxton
 Starring: Matthew McConaughey/Fenton
Bill Paxton/ Dad
Powers Boothe/Agent Doyle
Matthew O'Leary/Young Fenton


Fenton (Matthew McConaughey) steps up to an FBI Agent (Boothe) in Dallas to reveal that his brother might be the Godís Hand killer that theyíve been looking for. As the conversation between the two men progresses, we are transported via flashbacks to the Meiks' household in 1979 to witness Fentonís troubled childhood. Let's just say that his papa (Paxton), listening to Godís will, went on to axe people whom he believed to be possessed by demons. Ouch! And I thought my family was INSANE!


The first thing I said to my bud JoBlo as we stepped out of the theatre was "Movies like this donít come around everyday." "Frailty" is an old fashioned type of genre flick and a refreshing change of pace from the wham-bam horror efforts that weíve been getting so far this year. Whatís "old fashioned" to me? Well, a flawless screenplay, atmospheric directing, Oscar-worthy performances, a gripping premise, axis towards characterization, efficient dramatic situationsÖbasically a fear film that not only manages to entertain and scare, but also touch me on an emotional level. I didnít know much about this picture when I snuggled into my theatre seat and thatís the way it should be for everybody. Saying too much about it might diminish the experience so Iíll try to keep it vague.

This film is a unique character-driven piece that took me on one hell of a loop-de-loop. Paxton succeeds in firmly establishing his endearing characters and his ďsmall town, everybodyís happyĒ setting early on and in consequence, made me feel safe. I genuinely got to care about the two boys and their gentle dad who came across as the greatest man in the world. You know the type: heís a simple hombre who works hard and obviously loves his sons very much. You've got to respect a man like that. I was digging this family, even envious of their rapport but thenÖgood old dad unexpectedly dropped the bomb. Heís had a vision and heís been chosen to kill demons in Godís name. The rub is that the demons are people, like real everyday people. What follows is a chilling, thought-provoking, in-depth, eerie and uncompromising look at how this man and his family deal with the task at hand. Conflicts arise, shocking events go down, faith is questioned and yes, lives are abused and taken. Tag all that drama with the engaging and mysterious action going on in the present day, which is effortlessly weaved with the past events by Paxtonís incredible directing know-how and a powerhouse ending that brings it all home, and you get a well-crafted, somber horror ride.

One aspect Iíd like to address more profoundly is the filmís violence. It comes from a sincere place, is committed by a kind-hearted man and that puts quite a different spin on it. The dad really believes that heís doing Godís work! This isnít Lucifer, Freddy Krueger or Jack Valenti talking to him, it's God, the head honcho himself, the source of good on earth. That gives the hard-hitting kill sequences an emotional nuance that really affected me. As for the violence itself, itís thankfully dealt with much restraint onscreen. Paxton relies on our investment in the characters and in the narrative to kick our asses and it worked. We never see the axe go in, all we see is the axe coming down, while hearing the ďswooshĒ and that extra note in the score. I cringed in my seat way more than if the karo syrup wouldíve squirted all over the place.

Overall, "Frailty" is not only an efficient horror film but also a powerful statement on faith. Iím curious to see what hardcore Christians will think of the film. Itís definitely NOT afraid to explore the pitch-dark corners of the human psyche and of religion. In the end, itís all left up to us to decide where we stand in regards to the goings-on. Saying more about the film would be murder. I think I've found my fav flick of this year so far. Thank you, Mr. Paxton...I needed that. Are you a demon?


Matthew McConaughey (Fenton) underplays the part and projects enough of a dark and mysterious aura to keep us riveted to the screen every time that he shows up. Great piece of casting there. Bill Paxton (Dad) gives an honest and colored performance as the good man faced with an ugly mission. Heís impeccable! Powers Boothe (Agent Doyle) does what he has to do and does it very well. Nice to see the man onscreen again. Matthew O'Leary (Young Fenton) and Jeremy Sumpter (Young Adam) are both very credible and natural as the two brothers. I adored them.


Blood is shed but itís kept on the light side. Most of the kills are off-screen and itís the sheer brutality of the actual acts that shook me up.

T & A:

Matthew McConaughey goes shirtless and the ladies/gay dudes will melt. We donít get any female goodies but it's all good, this flick didnít need them.


I guess being on set with the likes of Sam Raimi, James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow was a good thing for good ol' Bill. The man has a sharp eye, leans towards dread-filled atmosphere constantly, does efficient things with sound, knows how to capture momentum and tension and displays brilliant scene transitions. Bill was obviously surrounded by talented folks for his first directing go and it shows. The cinematography here is morbidly gorgeous (loved the play with light and darkness). I relished it! This is an astounding debut and I for one am looking forward to following Paxtonís directorial career as it moves forward. You go, Cowboy!


The score by Brian Tyler hits all of the right notes and helps amplify the spooky nature, the suspense and the gravity of the situation.


"Frailty" is quite an accomplishment. Iíve always been a HUGE fan of Paxtonís acting work but now Iím flabbergasted: the man is also an awesome director! Congratulations, dude! If mature, challenging, expertly written and unapologetic horror is your bag, run to your multiplex and get ready for a nightmarish trip. Do me a favor though, when you do see the picture and if you do love it, spread the word about it. Quality horror movies of this sort should be financially successful too. Let's get the word of mouth going on this grim gem.


The film was shot in 37 days.

Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe and screenwriter Brent Hanley are all Texan boys.

The flick was shot in California.

Read my interview with screenwriter Brent Hanley here

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The Way The Arrow Points...

 Iíd BUTCHER my family to see this again
 HANG me but I dug it a lot
 An ok way to KILL two hours
 Just sling an ARROW in my head and let me die in peace

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© 2002 John Fallon  All Rights Reserved