Frailty (2001 film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bill Paxton|
|Produced by||David Kirschner|
|Written by||Brent Hanley|
|Music by||Brian Tyler|
|Edited by||Arnold Glassman|
David Kirschner Productions
American Entertainment Co.
Cinerenta Medienbeteiligungs KG
|Distributed by||Lions Gate Films|
|November 7, 2001|
|Box office||$17.4 million|
Frailty is a 2001 American psychological horror film directed by and starring Bill Paxton, and co-starring Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. It marks Paxton's directorial debut. The plot focuses on the strange relationship between two young boys and their fanatically religious father, who believes that he has been commanded by God to kill demons disguised as people.
Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) visits FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) claiming that his brother Adam is the culprit in the "God's Hand" serial killings. Fenton says Adam has committed suicide, prompting Fenton to fulfill a promise to bury his brother in a public rose garden in their hometown of Thurman. He begins to tell Doyle about the boys' childhood and suggests that the bodies of the God's Hand victims are buried in the rose garden.
In the summer of 1979, when the brothers (Matt O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter) were children, their father (Bill Paxton) told them that he'd been visited by an angel and tasked by God with destroying demons disguised as human beings. He explained that this mission was now the responsibility of the three of them and must be kept secret from all others. The father's modus operandi is to wait for the angel to give him a list of names of those who must be destroyed. He then abducts an individual from the list, takes them to the family home and, with his sons present, touches them, which, he says, grants him a vision of the crimes the demon has committed. He then kills the victim with an ax and buries the body in the rose garden. Adam believes in their father's mission and says that he sees the same visions of the demons' crimes that their father sees. Although he goes along out of fear, Fenton doesn't believe; he is convinced that their father is insane and has brainwashed Adam.
After telling Doyle how his father killed the first person, Fenton and Doyle drive to Thurman. On the way, Doyle tells Fenton that his mother had been murdered by someone that has never been caught. Fenton continues his story as they drive. He tells Doyle how, when his father took them to get the second person on the list in broad daylight, he told them no one will see them because "God will blind them for us." One night Fenton's father tells him that after praying for the angel to visit Fenton (for his lack of faith) the angel instead visited him, and told him something about Fenton that he didn't want to believe. He makes Fenton dig a hole that eventually becomes a "storm cellar" where they'll kill "demons."
Eventually, Fenton tries to stop the crimes by telling Sheriff Smalls (Luke Askew) what has happened. Smalls visits, and Fenton insists that he search their storm cellar. The father ambushes and kills Smalls to "protect the mission," and is distraught at having been made to kill a person for what he believes is the first time.
The father blames Fenton for revealing their mission and thus forcing him to kill Smalls. He tells Fenton that the angels told him that Fenton was a demon, but he doesn't want to believe it. He locks Fenton in the storm cellar hoping Fenton will have a divine revelation. After weeks of starvation, Fenton tells his father that he has indeed seen God and is ready to take his place in the mission.
At the next abduction, Fenton is given the ax to deliver the death blow, but at the last second kills his father instead. Fenton's father whispers something to Adam as he dies. Fenton moves to free the hostage, but Adam takes up the ax and kills him.
Doyle and Fenton arrive at the rose garden. Fenton tells Doyle how they buried the two bodies in the rose garden, and how Fenton asked Adam to bury him in the rose garden too, should Adam ever have to "destroy" him.
Doyle is puzzled by his phrasing. "Fenton" then reveals to Doyle that he is in fact Adam and that he has destroyed the real Fenton, who had grown up to become the God's Hand killer. Flashbacks reveal that Adam did in fact share his father's visions of the crimes of those they abducted, just as he'd always claimed (whereas Fenton did not; as such, Adam always feared that Fenton was a demon). When Adam touches Doyle, a new vision reveals that Doyle had murdered his own mother. Doyle asks, "How did you know?" and Adam replies that Doyle's name was given to him on the list of demons to be destroyed. Doyle tries to protect himself by reminding Adam that people at the office saw him, but Adam just declares that God will protect him, then strikes down Doyle with the ax.
Those who saw Adam (posing as Fenton) at the FBI office inexplicably remember nothing about his visit. In the surveillance tapes, his face is obscured by static. The investigation then proceeds as Adam predicted: FBI agents raid the real Fenton's home and discover evidence of his crimes, as well as Doyle's badge, planted by Adam.
Agent Griffin Hull (Derk Cheetwood) visits the Enid County Sheriff—Adam Meiks—to deliver the news about Fenton. Hull doesn't recognize Adam, even though he was one of the people who saw him at the FBI office the night before. Shaking Hull's hand before he takes his leave, Adam tells him he's "a good man," indicating he's seen that Hull has not committed any crimes. Hull departs, and Adam tells his pregnant wife that "God's will has been served."
- Bill Paxton - Dad Meiks
- Matthew McConaughey - Fenton Meiks/Adam Meiks
- Powers Boothe - FBI Agent Wesley Doyle
- Matt O'Leary - Young Fenton
- Jeremy Sumpter - Young Adam
- Luke Askew - Sheriff Smalls
- Levi Kreis - Adam Meiks/Fenton Meiks
- Derk Cheetwood - Agent Griffin Hull
- Missy Crider - Becky Meiks (as Melissa Crider)
- Alan Davidson - Brad White
- Cynthia Ettinger - Cynthia Harbridge
- Vincent Chase - Edward March
- Gwen McGee - Operator
- Edmond Scott Ratliff - The Angel
- Rebecca Tilney - Teacher
Frailty received generally positive reviews, with a 73% "Certified Fresh" rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 148 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Creepy and disturbing, Frailty is well-crafted, low-key horror." Roger Ebert in particular singled it out for praise, giving the film four out of four stars and declaring that "Frailty is an extraordinary work, concealing in its depths not only unexpected story turns but also implications, hidden at first, that make it even deeper and more sad." Bloody Disgusting gave the film an 'Honourable Mention' in their list of the twenty best horror films of the 2000s, calling the film an "underrated gem [...] a small-scale, thought-provoking horror film that deserves a second look." However, there are negative remarks on the performance, which was criticised by Nell Minow as "a cold reading of the script", while one particular plot that the murders take place in front of the young sons and committed by a beloved father is considered "disturbing" and "an abuse of cinematic power."
- "Frailty". Classification.gov.au. Archived from the original on 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
- "Frailty (2002) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. Used with permission.
- "Frailty – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (April 12, 2002). "Frailty". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
- "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 1". Bloody Disgusting. December 15, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
- Minow, Nell. "Frailty - Movie Review". Retrieved 2016-11-12 – via https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/frailty.
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