Februrary 8, 2013

Frailty (2001)
Starring Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey

“I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart.  Where?  Down in my heart!  Where?  Down in my heart!  I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart to stay.  And if the Devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack. Ouch!  Sit on a tack. Ouch!”
-Bible Song

Comments:   Frailty is a horror movie that came out in 2001, and it is one of those obscure little movies that I didn't even hear about for a couple of years.   I had no idea it existed until it started showing up on lists like "the most underrated horror movies ever made" or "best horror movies of the past 20 years."  And like I said in my review of The Other, when you see the same movie titles showing up on lists like these over and over and over, at a certain point you sort of owe it to yourself to check them out to see what everyone is talking about.

Frailty is the story of the Meiks family.  There are only three of them, a dad (Bill Paxton) and his two sons.  Mom is no longer in the picture.  And they are a very simple family.  There are no deep dark secrets in this family, there is no shame, there is no abuse, there is no criminal history.  All the Meiks family is is a perfectly ordinary dad and his two perfectly ordinary sons.  And the three of them love each other very very much.

A father and his two beloved sons

Well this is all well and good, of course, until one day when an angel comes down to dad to speak to him in his dreams.

An angel comes down from heaven to visit the father, the angel passes him an important message in his sleep, and when dad wakes up in the morning he realizes that he now has a new mission in life.  It turns out that God has placed him on this planet for a very special reason.

Dad has been placed on the Earth to hunt demons

And really, that is the story of Frailty.  Bill Paxton receives a message from God that he is supposed to kill demons.  And he snaps.  One minute he is an everyday ordinary father of two young boys, and the next minute he is receiving messages from God about which people in the world are demons in disguise and he is supposed to go out and kill.  And his two young sons alternate between taking everything their dad is saying at face value and believing him, or thinking that their father that they love so much has gone crazy.

Dad showing proof to his sons that God is delivering him things


Dad trying to convince his son that the three of them are demon hunters now

First off, Frailty is one creepy ass movie.  And it is the type of horror movie that I absolutely love.  Because it is not gory, it is not torture porn, it really isn't even all that graphic at all.  It is just the story of a dad who may or may not be completely insane, and the one son who believes him, and the other son who doesn't.  And it is up to the son who doesn't believe him to decide if he wants to actually try to stop him.

Dad taking his two boys out on a demon killing mission

The boys watching after dad kidnaps a lady from the mall and murders her

I watched Frailty for the first time in 2005, and the first time I watched it I immediately put it on my list of "10 Great Horror Movies That Most People Have Never Seen."  In fact this movie was kind of the reason why I created that list in the first place.  It was all because movies like this don't deserve never to have ever found an audience.  

A lot of people have already seen that list on my Facebook page by the way ("10 Great Horror Movies...")  I will be writing about all ten of them this year on my 200 Underloved Movies countdown.  For the record, Frailty is only the third one I have talked about so far.  The other two I have mentioned up to this point are Spoorloos and The Wicker Man.

Be daddy's little helper and go kill that man down there, okay?

I don't want to say too much about Frailty because it is one of those movies that works so well the first time you see it.  And again, it isn't a gory movie.  Don't be fooled by all the shots of people holding axes.  This movie is psychological more than anything.  It gets right inside your head and it just stays there.  Because, you know, there probably are people just like Bill Paxton out there in the world.  And what if one of these people thinks that -you- are a demon?  

Think about that for a second.

Game over, man.  Game over.

By the way, a couple of things I should point out about the awesomely underrated and creepy Frailty before I sign off.

First off, Bill Paxton directed this movie.  It was his directorial debut.  Um, this really isn't the type of movie you would expect from a guy who was once Simon the used car salesman in True Lies, or who was once Chet in Weird Science.  But yes Bill Paxton directed this movie and yes it is quite a little masterpiece of suspense.  Not bad for a first time effort.  Like I said, not every movie inspires me to make a ten great underseen horror movies countdown.

Are you there God?  It's me, Paxton.

The second thing I want to say about this movie is that most of it is told in flashback.  It is all told in an interview between Matthew McConaughey (one of the sons who is now all grown up) and Powers Boothe (an FBI agent).  So when you start watching the movie, keep in mind that the movie you are expecting to see isn't the movie that you will see at first.  The Bill Paxton/little kids/demon hunting stuff doesn't kick in for a little bit.

Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) explaining to the FBI all the people that his father has killed

Okay, and now the third thing.  And this is the big one.

Frailty has a twist in the movie.  Actually, it has a couple of twists.  But there is one really BIG twist.  And in my opinion it is sort of what makes the movie.  Frailty is the sort of movie where you sit there, and you watch it, and you think it is really amazing and creepy and scary.  And then the twist comes and you think to yourself, "holy shit!" and you immediately want to go back and watch it again.  

I know that some people like the twist, I know that some people hate the twist, but in my opinion it is easily one of the bigger "holy shit!" twists I have ever seen in a movie.  And for that reason alone I recommend Frailty as a movie that everyone who loves creepy movies should see at least once.  

Watch it once.  Send me an email afterwards.  Let me know what you thought of it.

The family that slays together stays together

P.S.  Bill Paxton rocks.

Rose, you mean to tell me you had the Heart of the Ocean all along?  Get into the death pit.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Frailty:

Hidden gem! - 18 June 2011
This movie passed by widely unnoticed.

I caught it recently by accident if anything. This is not your typical serial killer movie. This is neither your typical slasher movie.

Without giving anything away it's a movie you really need to see until the very end. Well acted (child actors can ruin films but the kids in this are excellent) and whilst the production values are fairly average the perfect pacing of the story and the character development is top notch. The leads (Paxton and Mchouaghey) are terrific and entirely believable. After switching off the TV at the end I turned to two pals and we all basically said 'Jesus!' or similar.

I'm sure many others had a similar reaction.

A real hidden gem and a must see.  

Astounding - 9 February 2007
I first saw the trailer for Frailty on Yahoo Movies way back in the day, after hearing Stephen King praise it to high heaven. Not really a fan of either star, I still wanted to see it because I'm a huge thriller fan.

I was not disappointed. The acting was superb, especially from the two young boys. Usually I loathe child actors, but Young Adam and Young Fenton were excellent. Bill Paxton really did a good job of directing it too. It was beautifully shot.

One must also note the plot twists. The three twists at the end hit hard and fast, and I didn't see them coming. The final twist of the film, coupled with the gravity of what had just been revealed, gives me chills to this day, even though I've re-watched the film so many times.

A true gem.

Creepy....Not at all what I expected!!! - 1 May 2011
My husband made me watch this movie the other night...and I thought oh no here we go again another bad horror movie...I was wrong this movie was absolutely terrifying, and not in a Texas Chainsaw kinda way. I can't even compare it to any other movie I have ever seen.

It takes place in Texas at a FBI office were they have been searching for the God's Hand Killer. Matthew McConaughey plays Fenton Meiks a Man who comes to visit the FBI Agent who is working on the case to tell him he knows who the God's Hand Killer is.

What happens next is a whirlwind of events, and flash backs into young Fenton ,and his younger brother Adam's life. That's were Bill Paxton comes in, by far one of the craziest roles I've ever seen him in.

It is a movie about good vs. evil, heaven vs. hell, and the twist at the end was crazy I didn't even see it coming. Do your self a favor and check this movie out!!!

Very atmospheric! - 4 December 2007
Frailty is one of those films that you watch and can't forget easily. It's very atmospheric, well-performed, well-directed and a overall delivers a creepy psychological thriller.

Frailty is the story of a close family, when one day, the father (played in an exceptional performance from Bill Paxton) claims he has seen a vision from God, who has sent him on a 'mission' to kill 'demons'. The demons, according to the father, disguise themselves like regular people, but only he knows who they are.

The great thing about Frailty is it manages to go one step ahead to your typical film of this genre. Recently, there seems to have been a lot of psychological horror or thriller films that fall just below average, and are easily forgettable. However, Frailty somehow manages to be better than that, and become a film that sticks out from the usual one's of its type. For one thing, it is very thought-provoking, giving you the opportunity to watch a satisifying, not totally open-ended film, but instead a partly solved ambiguous mystery.

The other thing that adds to the atmospheric tension of Frailty is the brilliant and highly intelligent narrative. At the beginning of the film, we are led to trust the father, just as the children do, but during the scene where he tells them of his 'vision', we become sceptical almost of his sanity, just as Fenton is. Thus, as the narrative progresses, it seems you can watch the film on different levels as you trust your own judgements.

Bill Paxton provides a solid performance as good as his directing, playing a twisted man, yet still winning the trust of his youngest son. The two child performances are exceptional also, as is McConaughey. They leave us with the possibility that this event could happen in any town, and in my opinion, that is what makes the film so creepy.

I watched this film when it was released years ago and I haven't forgotten it. After seeing it again recently, I spotted new things that I didn't last time, and watched it on a completely different level. I think that's a sign of a good film, especially of this genre. Frailty is a disturbing and completely unforgettable film, one of the best films I have seen in its genre.

Wow... - 7 April 2006
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. This is a movie about two kids whose father suddenly has a vision. He claims an angel visits him, and tells him that they need to kill "demons". He gets instructions later, and they start rounding up the demons, which are, to the naked eye, ordinary people. They kill these so-called demons with an ax to the head, and chop them up, burying them in the rose-garden. Their father claims he can see their sins when he touches them. The movie continues, with a twist at the end.

The thing that I love about this movie, is that it perfectly captures the frailty of human perception. Is their father completely mad? Or, is he telling the truth? The audience is left to decide. Go make the judgment for yourself, and see the movie. Now.  

Frailty is truly original and an excellent horror movie - 9 October 2006
This could be the most underrated movie of its genre. I don't remember seeing any advertisements or commercials for this one which could be the reason why it didn't do so well at the box office. However, Frailty is an excellent and a truly original horror movie. I rank it within the top 10 most favorite horror movies on my list.

Movie begins with snapshots of photos and news articles telling us about a killer who calls himself "God's hand". And then a man walks into a police station and tells the chief officer that he knows the killer is his brother. Two of them leave together to go to a location where victims are buried which might help solve the case. During that trip, the man begins telling the story of his brother and we go back in time when the events began. Fenton and Adam are two young brothers living with their strict and religious father who, one day, claims that he has received a divine message from God asking him to kill the demons that appear to be regular human beings. He receives from God a list of names of demons to be destroyed and asks his sons to help him carry out this divine mission.

This is an absolutely horrifying and suspenseful film that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The tension runs high, innocent people (or demons?) get killed and religious experiences are questioned. It has not one but few very intelligent twists at the end. If you like this genre, I highly recommend Frailty for you. I own the DVD and it is one of my all time favorite horror-thrillers.

One of the scariest films I've ever seen - 23 May 2011
I was actually channel-surfing a few weeks ago and happened upon the first few minutes of this film. I have never really been a fan of any of the actors, which would probably explain why I didn't catch "Frailty" when it was still in its first-run. This movie scared the hell out of me, quite simply. In this world of bizarre cults, religious fanatics, weekly Armageddons, etc., it would be easy to imagine a misplaced, misguided, or just plain crazy guy declaring his intention to heed the word of the Lord and start killing "demons." The fact that he dragged his two young sons into this carnage made it all the more sick and twisted - especially the younger boy, whose enthusiasm for his father's "mission" turned my stomach. Only Fenton, the older boy, seemed to have a conscience. However, thanks to a wonderful script and excellent direction, we find out that even this is not exactly the truth. Or is it? I am almost middle-aged, and have only sat through three movies that left me with the creepy and distinct feeling that I will probably burn in hell just for viewing them. "Rosemary's Baby" is one, followed by "The Seventh Sign," and now "Frailty."

* My favorite trivia about Frailty:

* Directors James Cameron, Sam Raimi and author Stephen King all singled out Frailty for high praise. King thought it one of the best horror movies of its year.

* The film is set in Texas and has three Texas-born actors as top-billed stars: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe.

* Bill Paxton's directorial debut. Allegedly, the title Frailty (which is never spoken in the film) refers not to the slow disintegration of the family, but to the very low budget for the movie. Lion's Gate considered changing the title to "God's Hands" (which is a phrase spoken in the film) but Paxton and writer Brent Hanley insisted against this. Ironically, the Brazilian title is 'A Mão do Diabo' (The Devil's Hand').

* The demon-destroying axe is inscribed with the letters OTIS. The significance of this writing is never given. Fans have speculated that Otis Meiks is the true name of Bill Paxton's character "Dad." Others believe OTIS to be an acronym for Only The Innocent Survive.

* Bill Paxton mentions in the director commentary at 54:19 "We couldn't really dig it [the hole] that deep .. unless it's reinforced, so actually in this shot [54:31] I'm on my knees and kind of making it look like I'm standing up to make the hole look deeper and of course there's a little mound there [at the lip of the hole]."

* Putting the name OTIS on the axe was completely director Bill Paxton's invention. Paxton put the name OTIS on the axe to mark it so that the audience would know that it is an heirloom passed from father to son.

* My favorite scene in Frailty:

Well the ending of course.  I have always thought that religion is a pretty creepy concept in general.  This movie confirms it.  :)

Frailty at the IMDB

Frailty at Wikipedia

Back to 200 Movies That Deserve More Love