I didn't know much about this film before I popped in the ole DVD player but had heard great things about it. Since those great things were told to me by JoBlo, who also had great things to say about BATTLEFIELD EARTH, I decided it was better I give it a shot myself and lo and behold, my socks ended up in the next room after being blown off by Bill Paxton's directorial debut. This film was, from the outset, an experience in nerve management. I'm a pretty laid back guy but as soon as the opening credits started rolling along to that eerie score, I tensed up and felt somewhat uncomfortable about the whole thing. I wasn't disappointed as that creepy feeling remained throughout the film and only got worse.
In addition to the incredibly controlled and perfectly understated performances by the three stars of the film, some rather small shoulders carried a lot of the weight. Matt O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, who play young Fenton and his kid brother Adam respectively held their own as the diminutive cornerstones of this great trip into the insane mind of a madman. It's well documented that I'm not a fan of child actors but these two are "actors", plain and simple. They just happen to be younger than the rest of us and with all due respect to my friend Haley Joel Osment, they prove conclusively that you don't have to constantly whisper to be very creepy. Aside from the great showings by the cast (and make no mistake about it, this is a film about performances-- there are no gory decapitations or flaming explosions), the film was also donned with some great dark scenery and a very appropriate score. This suspenseful piece is very original, very captivating and quite probably one of the year's best films.
First off is a commentary by director Bill Paxton, which is pretty standard as far as commentaries go. Paxton goes over all the basics of his casting decisions, his choices in filming and his relationship within the storyline. Nothing particularly dazzling is added and he seems to be taking it very seriously. I've always had this image of him as a really nice guy so I always like to hear what the man has to say. Following that was the commentary by editor Arnold Glassman, producer David Kirschner and composer Brian Tyler. Although they tended to repeat a lot of what Paxton mentioned earlier, it was a bit livelier simply because you don't listen to the same voice over and over. Again though, it was pretty standard. The last one, the commentary by writer Brent Henley, was my favorite of the three. The man is pretty funny and sounds like he's so laid back that I wouldn't be surprised if he recorded the track while sitting on the throne with a can of beer. Hats off to him for that, especially since he introduces himself as "the sick fuck who wrote this story".
Next up is a 20-minute long featurette bearing the groundbreaking title of "The Making of Frailty". A collection of comments by Paxton, the crew, McConaughey, the kids and various others discussing topics like casting, shooting, the storyline and more. If you've listened to any of the commentaries, most of the stuff is rehashed so you may want to briefly glance over this one. Now if someone had asked McConaughey how his nude bongo playing was going, I'd tune in but other than that....
After that, you scoot on over to a 25-minute long "anatomy of a scene" documentary by The Sundance Channel. This was pretty darn cool and I have seen it on a few DVD's before. Always like it. They basically take one scene from the film (in this case, a long drive in a dark car with Fenton and Doyle) and go over every aspect of making it happen. There's a section on the setup of the scene, the cinematography, the editing, production design, wrap-up and more. Pretty nice for the film-school students and even better for those of us who won't be tested on it!
Deleted Scenes are the next contestant, available with or without Paxton's two bits. Four scenes make up the feature and they're all quite decent. Clocking in at a total of 8 minutes though, they are pretty short and didn't really add any new info to the film. I guess no one will argue the guillotine chop they received in the end but they're still worth a look.
The rest is you basic stuff such as a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and storyboards for three of the film's scenes.