Spooktober Day 9: Frailty

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Bill Paxton’s directorial debut is often overlooked in the genre, which is unfortunate, because this actor’s foray behind the camera (who also stars in it) is one that is worth discovering.

I first saw this in highschool when I rented the DVD and I remember that I immediately insisted my parents watch before it’s required return. They did, much to me being relentless, and I felt like I had done my good movie deed of the day: Spreading the joy (and occasionally the permeating discomfort) of films in every way, as much as I can.

Oh, how I miss the mom and pop video stores of the past.

Frailty was gloomy in a way that burrowed in your bones, it got skeletal (and at times cerebral) as it questioned parental mental instability and religious intent. I found it powerful and thought provoking. I remember thinking “well, this is certainly something.” And, that hasn’t changed.

Part mystery/psychological thriller/horror and southern gothic, Frailty follows single parent “Dad” (Bill Paxton) after he gets a sign from god that he needs to rid out the evil of the world. Is it real? Or psychosis? When he brings in the help of his children, regardless of the validity, there’s a definite reason for concern as discomforting event, after discomforting event (ahem, bodies) pile up.

source: Lions Gate Films

It’s a violent affair, in more ways than one, both in a physical visceral way, and an emotionally manipulative one. Frailty is a very dark film and of course I mean that in tone but also in lighting, emphasizing the atmosphere that really feels lived in and worn out.

Frailty nestles under the skin, and it doesn’t stop, only moving deeper, as we begin to feel for the children (played with real empathy by Matt O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter).

While occasionally uneven, the performances elevate and the heavy handed surety of the father is downright chilling. Once an idea is planted, it burrows, infecting the children, and the life they have built. Whenever someone is convinced of doing something so horrific with a certainty that it’s for a greater cause- it’s skin crawling.

source: Lions Gate Films
source: Lions Gate Films

I wish Paxton had gotten more of an opportunity to explore the genre, as he had starred in some iconic horror roles, and you can tell he had real promise behind the lens. There’s something that stands out about Frailty from other films of the like, and it develops into an old-fashioned feeling horror film; it’s chilling.

Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe also add an intriguing dynamic to the mix as the story is being told from McConaughey‘s point of view, and the two consistently size the other up as we uncover the details and the truth (to an extent).

Grim, but effective, Paxton’s debut is authentically creepy. An enduring and inventive vision of horror.