Frailty (2001)

Posted: by Findlay

Frailty (2001); Directed by Bill Paxton

In One Sentence: A coming-of-age story that isn’t a fluffy, cute, quotable cheesefest.

Why you should watch: Frailty came out at an incredibly tough time. The slasher revival was basically stone dead and the western world was still massively raw and mournful after 9/11, which only happened 6 months ago. Even with these two huge factors hanging over Frailty, its story itself is a bit of a hard sell. The story of a man recalling his childhood with his brother, where his father has a vision that an angel told him to kill people because they were demons. Studios couldn’t figure out how to market it. Slasher? Supernatural Thriller? Drama? It’s kind of everything. But the confusion of it all led to the studios falling on the reliable, age-old trick of firing the big names up on the poster and crossed their fingers.

Matthew McConaughey stars but mainly narrates and Powers Boothe is in it briefly as sceptical FBI agent Wes Doyle but the MVP and all round king is Bill Paxton, who not only stars as the Dad, but also directs. It’s actually his directorial debut and it’s a fucking corker.

Confessed to the FBI in retrospect by Matt McConaughey, the smart, tight little story focuses on him and his younger brother as young boys, living alone in small town Texas with their father and his actions after his religious “vision”. The vision being to kill people on a list that an angel has decried demons. The script unfolds with a neat, explorative pace, in line with a huge level of intrigue you can’t take your eyes off. Its huge strength is this weird skin of ambiguity it lets you pick and smooth at. A great example being Paxton’s character himself. He’s not a massive, babbling religious freak, hell-bent on redemption but rather a normal, everyday dad who has this divine calling he completely feels he has to obey. Throughout the film lets you toy with idea that this supernatural element is real and that angels and demons exist, hiding as all us. But then, you find yourself doubting it due to being roped back to reality, with McConaugheys sceptical, matter-of-fact descriptions. As per usual, I won’t ruin a jot of it but, there are some lovely twists that really give the story much more depth.

The character relationships in it are a highlight aswell, with the strength of them elevating the story from thriller/horror to mix in real coming-of-age roots. It’s incredible and completely all down to Paxton and his confident as fuck directing. His talent is completely alive in every cell of the film and I never knew I could love him more.

Another part of Frailty’s horror film hard sell is that is a practically bloodless affair, with no big pay off gore of any sort. Its all cutaways or shadowplay or shown in the faces of other characters. Left to linger in your brain along with the plot. Beautiful!

I probably say this a lot but I cannot recommend this enough. Put your feet up and fuck the gorehound stuff to the side tonight. Put Frailty on, get some tea or coffee, enjoy an unexpectedly deep character study and let me know what you thought.

I should also add I cried at Frailty aswell. What is wrong with me?

Favourite Line: “Don’t cry for her son, she wasn’t human.”

Rating: 9/10 – Bill Paxton 4 Life