Frailty is one of the most underrated movies of all time. Don’t believe me? Just look at any list online of most underrated movies ever made, and you’re likely to find Frailty on it. So, really, is it all that underrated anymore if everyone agrees that it’s awesome and underrated? Sorry for the tangent, it was just an odd observation I had to get that out of the way. Now on to why Frailty is a personal favorite.
While I generally tend to prefer scary movies with large casts and scopes with the occasionally over the top setpiece, Frailty isn’t like that. It’s a small, intimate movie of religious mania, murder and the breakdown of a family that is at once heartbreaking and frightening, especially once we are given all the facts. Bill Paxton, in a career-highlight role, plays a father to two young sons in 1970’s rural Texas. They live a happy, simple life, until he wakes his boys up in the middle of the night and tells them that God has called to him, and enlisted him to kill demons on Earth. While his youngest son, Adam, is fully willing to believe, the older son and narrator, Fenton, is doubtful, believing his father to be mentally ill. Fenton hopes it will all pass, until his father begins kidnapping people off of the street claiming they are demons, and asking for his boys help in murdering them.
Bill Paxton, in his directorial debut, shines as the nameless Father. He is at once frightening and sympathetic. He is a cold-blooded killer who believes he is following a righteous path, yet he still loves his sons and helps them out with their homework. As he descends further into madness and despair, the fear and heartbreak Fenton must face as he realizes what he needs to do are truly difficult to watch. As well, credit must be given to the two child actors who play Adam and Fenton in flashbacks, who are very believably innocent and conflicted as their Father begins to fall apart.
Having been raised by a single father, Frailty is a particularly difficult movie for me to watch. When you only have one parent to rely upon, they are your whole world, they are the ones who teach you everything, who provide for you, who keep you alive. You never want to doubt them, and Frailty plays with that fear by constantly manipulating the reality of what we are seeing. By the end of the movie, we are doubting what we are seeing every bit as much as Fenton doubts his father, and when the requisite twist ending comes around… it hits hard.
(THIS MOVIE IS A MATT CARTER PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION: Yes, given the high probability that you haven't seen this movie already, I have no problem recommending this one. It's difficult to watch at times, but it's classy, well-done, and supremely get-under-your-skin scary.)
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-- Matt Carter
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