Review Date: April 12, 2002
Director: Bill Paxton
Writer: Brent Hanley
Producers: David Blocker, David Kirshner, Corey Sienega
Starting with Bill Paxton's surprisingly deft ability to capture all of the nuances, the nooks and the crannies of this creepfest, with quite the look of an experienced eye for a first time director. At to that, the fact that the same dude plays the lead character in the film as well, a man who cannot be played as an over-the-top zealot or nut, in order for us to stay in focus, and Paxton, once more, does an amazing job of convincing us of his crazy beliefs. The man actually believes that God has given him and his sons the task of killing "demons" (aka other humans) on Earth, and after a while, you begin to start believing it yourself (that's how good he is!). Of course, common sense tells us otherwise, so his two sons also have to play their roles with conviction, and they do, especially Matthew O'Leary, as the older, wiser son who believes very simply that his dad has gone nuts. Add that to the great Powers Boothe, finally given a chance to shine in a "bigger" film, and Matthew McConaughey, delivering an ambiguously chilling performance that makes the film even more believable, and I gotta tell you, I was hooked, lined and sunk into this baby. By the time the ending rolled around, and the girls had all dropped their tops (figuratively speaking, of course), I bought it all with a little drool rolling down the side of my mouth as a bonus.
This is one disturbing movie, folks. It aims to creep you out, and it delivers on all sides. I think much of your own "enjoyment" from the picture will likely depend on whether or not you are pulled into the characters' respective plights, and I was quite invested in them all. The story was intriguing, the mood was devastatingly eerie, the transition between the family's early days together and its eventual path was well handled, the psychological effects on the kids was credible, and the scenes in which certain people were murdered, were also quite shocking (one particular scene almost had me jumping out of my seat-despite the fact that all of the murders are actually off-screen). But I have to say that what really kept me into this movie was the relationship between the father and his sons. This flick could've been blown off if this connection had not been played out with tangible credibility or love behind it, but Paxton does a great job, as both an actor and director, of giving the audience a true sense of the father's struggle between the love for his sons and his apparent "mission from God". You see him fighting with this dilemma throughout the movie, and the ultimate revelation about all of the film's events, makes it all, that much sadder. Don't go into this film expecting boo scares or chicks in tight tank-tops, but do expect to be creeped out, do expect to be set inside an extreme situation in which you too must decide what is right and wrong, and do expect to be entertained, as the saying goes. I really loved this movie. An amazing achievement by a first-time director and the best film that I've seen so far this year.