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Frailty (2001)  

Directed by Bill Paxton Written by Brent Hanley

  Summary: One dark and rainy night, Fenton (Matthew McConaughey) strolls right into a FBI building to Agent Wesley Doyle’s (Powers Boothe) office. Withholding information concerning the “Gods Hand” killer and speaking of his brother Adam being behind the murders, who had also just passed away. Having stole his brother’s body in an attempt to bury him within the Rose garden which held much significance, he also feels the need to speak of his family, more precisely his father. In 1979 it seemed Father (Bill Paxton) had received a message from God that he was go forth and “slay demons” that only he would be able to see. Given three weapons to carry out his bidding’s, Fenton becomes weary at how his father had clearly, gone mad. Younger brother Adam having little to say on the matter except for  claiming to see the same evil doings his dad saw right before slaying them. Going on to tell of a handful of murders he and his brother witnessed and how Father punished him when he still choose not to believe. Locking him in a cellar and only allowing for a glass of water a day he was left for a little over a week. Taking him out after Adam hadn’t received a response one day, and he claimed to finally have seen God. Hey, I probably would have to after being locked in there a week. Though Fenton remains unchanged and said so only to go forth with his own plan involving crossing out a Demon off his own list.

  While I can recall this having been a good film; having all the initial elements to work with and fool the audience along the way. I had generally forgotten about it as more than enough time had passed to let the entire story slip my mind. Or even know it was Bill Paxton’s directorial debut. Turns out he’s quite a fan of True Crime stories and some of the articles used in the opening sequence were from his own collection. It was also important that because the movie was Texas-based (though shot in LA) that the Actors were able to sell the script the way he imagined. Stating that as he read it for the first time he could even hear McConaughey’s voice throughout and knew he would be great for the role. Despite his notoriety for his laid back “hippy” roles, he’s able to surprise every once in a while which was certainly the case this time around. Of course, having met Boothe on Tombstone with a number of the other cast members from U-571. Except for Matt O’Leary (Young Fenton) and Jeremy Sumpter (Young Adam) who had won the opportunity to be in the film. O’Leary having the added pressure of holding so much more of the film ride on his performance. Not only would we view the film through his pov often but no matter how far his Father pushed him to submit, he refused to take his word for what it was. There were many great moments when the lighting or an editing effect was able to capture his great facial expressions without needing to add any dialogue to the scene.

  It’s also something best watched more than once because it does keep you guessing up until the last few moments. It’s also sure to surprise you in at least some aspect or another. They used such great color schemes through the film and nodded to Hitchcock in ways that gave the movie a nice touch during. Their life back in 1979 is weaved through the “present” with some fantastic transition shots. The amount of tension and subtext emphasized in the film made it all the more captivating to watch unfold. The scene in the car was most impressive, all thanks to cinematographer Bill Butler. What was described as the “poor mans process,” 20 crew members and 16 different effects were used to complete the scene. They have the behind the scenes of it but was truly amazing to see how he was able to get all the minor details that perhaps you wouldn’t think to add. The “headlights” in the back were actually just a guy holding onto two lights and wondering in the background. But you’d never guess that while watching. The scene was important to capture all the right elements though because it is a pivotal point as it’s where the power position is moved onto “Fenton.” Though he’s telling a story, he’s also inquiring about the Agent’s life and more specifically his mother. Coincidence, I think not!

  The one thing that did feel lacking was the ending. Though not because of where it choose to end. It just felt incomplete or that it should have been followed with a sequel. However if it wasn’t done with the same people then would very well fall into the curse that is, trying to make too much of a good thing. It was sure to leave out plenty for either the audience to put together or become lost at all the uncertainty; but that’s where seeing it again comes in handy. While we notice the axe is engraved with the name Otis, it was used more for the idea of it being an heirloom rather than pertaining to anyone in specific. The story also straddles a thin line of making it seem as though “Father “may have been in the right to commit such crimes because of the evil he sees them do. Because if they’re crazy than of course, they would see visions that make the whole delusion real. But then how was Adam able to see their sins as well. Or was he so caught up in trying to please his father that it didn’t matter if he actually saw anything or not. Which was confirmed once “Fenton” is done telling the story. Though it still felt like there could have been a “to be continued…” at the last shot. Perhaps even waiting all these years, it could be done with his child continuing on with their secret. Even taking years off to raise them and picking up once the town had forgotten everything. Who knows? I do know that I would love to see what else Paxton would be able to accomplish behind the camera. I’m sure given the time and money that he could make something that really terrifies if having surprised audiences with this gothic thriller.