Sam Raimi calls it "the scariest horror movie since The Shining". Stephen ""rent-a-quote"" King says he's "never seen a movie like it". Renowned US critic Roger Ebert tags it "extraordinary".
That Bill ""Hudson in Aliens"" Paxton's directorial debut fails to live up to such hyperbole is bloody obvious. How could it? So let's take a step back, check in with reality, and start afresh: this is a mildly unsettling, distinctly brave little suspenser that grips but rarely squeezes.
The opening, though, is guaranteed to hook, as Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) strolls into an FBI office and reveals the identity of the ghastly Hand Of God killer - it's his younger brother, Adam (Levi Kreis). Or rather it was, because Fenton's just killed him.
And so begins Fenton's account of how Adam came to be a serial killer. The movie shifts to flashback mode - - 1979 - - with most of the film showing how the young brothers (Matthew O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter) were forced to help their God-fearing father (Paxton) in his mission to slay demons. Demons disguised as humans, mind you.
Refusing to make Pa Meiks a bug-eyed killer, Frailty tackles religious fervour/dementia head-on. This is a gentle man who commits extreme acts of violence because an angel has told him to, a caring father who insists his children watch, and partake, because it's God's will. ""I'm sorry you have to see this"," he sincerely intones, face contorting as he cleaves the bound, bloodied woman lying on the barn floor.
For the most part, Paxton The Director exhibits a visual sensibility to match the sober story and low-key performances, his unhurried pacing and no-nonsense framing adding gravitas. That Frailty occasionally strays into the land of tired formula - - fog on graves, ominous thunder, - - is down to inexperience. Give Paxton another budget and megaphone and he just may make the masterpiece that some people have mistaken this for.
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A sprinkling of visual clichés aside, Frailty's an effective thriller that tackles contentious issues with admirable solemnity. Brought to you by the lead in Twister.