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God Speaks Through The Mouth Of Madness
Member Name: wampyrii
Date: 05/02/03, updated on 18/03/03 (210 review reads)
Advantages: It's good
Disadvantages: You might not like it (damn I hate these boxes)
Bill Paxton is a man you'll be more familiar with seeing in front of the camera rather than behind it, but considering the absolutely excellent job he has done with Frailty, his first attempt at taking the director's chair, we might be seeing a slight career change. Paxton has worked previously under the tutelage of some of Hollywood's great directors, such as the likes of James Cameron and Ron Howard amongst others, and obviously he has learnt a few things because Frailty is an absolutely superb directorial debut! It's easily the best horror thriller I saw in 2002 and despite an arguably unnecessarily contrived ending (which incidentally worked really well for me) it's a movie I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who asked.
Frailty is a very dark, very gruesome little head trip of a movie which grabs you by the balls and slowly tightens its grip remorselessly until it has you on your knees ready for the swinging axe. If the recent spate of lacklustre serial killer movies or tongue-in-cheek self-referential horrors with their transparent twists and been-there, done-that storylines have turned you off the genre (and no one could blame you if you never wanted to see either ever again) then this is the movie you have been waiting for as it's guaranteed to breath new hope into the notion that these genres aren't dead. Frailty is deeply unsettling in its approach and delivery, with the questions it asks about religion and madness, of gods and monsters, of sanity and religious fanaticism but it's also the creepiest, most atmospheric mainstream Hollywood movie I've seen since for a very long time and I loved every second of it!
We begin in modern times, in Texas in fact, where the F.B.I. are on the trail of a serial killer who calls himself the "God's Hand Killer" but are so far completely baffled as to his identity. That is until a dishevelled, melancholic Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) slou
ches into investigator Wesley Doyle's (Powers Booth) office and proceeds to tell him he knows who the killer is - his brother Alex Meiks.
Doyle is naturally suspicious, so Fenton begins to reel off the dark, twisted tale of his childhood and exactly what made Alex the man he is today. The tale begins in 1979 with the 12 year old Fenton(Matthew O'Leary) living with his loving father (Bill Paxton) and brother Alex(Jeremy Sumpter), their mother having died during the birth of her second child. Although only a kid himself Fenton looks after his younger brother and has done for as long as he can remember but it's a happy, loving family until one dark night things are set to take a horrible turn.
Fenton's father comes to his boys during the night claiming to have had a vision from God, who has told him he must rid the world of demons and has provided him with a list of names and will soon give him the magical tools with which to carry out the killings - vanquishment, in his eyes, it's not murder because they are demons and not human beings. His boys must help him in this task, it's 'God's will'. Whilst the younger Alex is enthusiastic about their mission, Fenton is horrified as his father begins his work, kidnapping and 'vanquishing the demons' whose names the angel has provided for him, yet who Fenton can only see as human beings when the axe comes down, time and again...
Frailty is a very stylish and creepy movie and it knows it. The creepy atmosphere is relentlessly foreboding and Paxton injects enough uncertainty into the plot to leaves you pondering on whether you are watching the exactment of a madman's delusions or whether you really are witnessing God's vengeful wrath being executed upon evil-doers. Frailty blurs the question of whether the demons are real or not, whether Fenton's father really did receive visions from God and whether indeed there is a question to be asked abou
very own accepted vision of reality and it does it with a fair amount of skill and artistry.
Paxton has opted to film virtually 99% of his movie under the cover of darkness and low lighting which is highly effective at maintaining the steadily escalating tension built up as Fenton relays how his father's perceived psychosis deepens as he carries out God's command and he tries to protect Alex from being sucked into his world. You get a real feel of hopelessness and desperation as the 12 year old Fenton realises he has no choice but to help his father vanquish 'demons' and watches with increasing desperation as his brother becomes increasingly more brainwashed into believing everything his father says is true. It's quite horrific to watch a father's twisted religious madness shaping his two young children's minds in their formative years and to think how these notions of good and evil will and do affect their later years. The maturity of performance from Matthew O'Leary certainly helps here as he is superb throughout and certainly a name to look out for in the future, but it's an undeniably well told, captivating story which Paxton weaves.
Paxton himself as an actor has never been quite this good before, perhaps because he is directing himself and knows better than anyone his strengths and weaknesses, but whatever the reason, his portrayal of a madman is decidedly believable and unnervingly 'real'. Forget foaming at the mouth, twitchiness and all those other 'Hollywood-actor-playing-a-madman' traits because Paxton here delivers words of lunacy with total conviction and a jarring air of normality. Frailty is a movie which is well acted all round for that matter, Powers Booth even manages to bring something a little more 'real' to the usually deeply stereotypical F.B.I. agent role which is saying something in itself!
Paxton has said himself that the movie's title refers
to the budget on which he had to work with but, not for the first time, I wonder if this hasn't just worked in a director's favour. There is absolutely no gore here at all for example, whether by design or because of the cost involved is left to speculation, yet, you'll be left thinking at the end that you've sat through a rather bloody movie indeed. For sure, there is more than enough implied violence but the camera cuts away at the last moment to leave you own mind to fill in the blanks - which it naturally does far more graphically than any movie maker could possibly portray with special effects and fake blood. In this and in the other ways Paxton builds up the tension and terror, Frailty is almost Hitchcockian in style. One place the lack of budget shows however, is in the soundtrack - not that it's a bad soundtrack, just that it feels like the exact same soundtrack you've heard in every single serial killer thriller in the last 20 years. It's a minor gripe and yes, I am fumbling around trying to find fault.
I suppose this isn't the *perfect* horror thriller because you do certainly get the feeling it could have ended quite nicely 15 minutes before it actually does so without having lost anything and with no one being any the wiser. It would still have been a great movie and probably would not have divided critics as much as it has done as all see fit to at least mention the conclusion as being anything from 'unnecessary' to having that tacked-on feeling and being a little contrived. I can't argue, it is, but I don't think it detracts too much unles you're looking for faults. There's also some obligatory twists which any seasoned movie watcher will see coming a mile off as always, but for once I didn't find any of this detracted in any way whatsoever from what is a very enjoyable movie.
Personally, I loved this movie. I love the creepy atmosphere and I love the way Frailty blurs reali
ty and fiction so you were never sure what is real and what isn't. Is Fenton's father insane or do the demons really exist and therefore is he really only carrying out God's will delivered to him by angels? Make your own mind up by watching the movie. The simple answer without watching is to condemn all those who commit acts like his in the name of God as being nuts, the more complex answer would be to question where you draw the line between lunacy and belief. Was Joan Of Arc a nutter or God's mouthpiece? Really? What about Jesus Christ? Where are we drawing the line and why and on whose say so? Would any of these three be considered anything other than fanatics to be condemned as such and locked in a padded cell in today's supposedly 'enlightened society'...the likes of Fenton's father would be and frequently are, yet does God really speak to some people and who condemns them for receiving these words and who declares they really aren't carrying out His will or condemns them for it? People spend so long looking for God and yet when someone jumps up and says they found him, the others claim he is a liar or sick in the head. Do they have a mental Frailty, or do the rest have a Frailty in their beliefs?
Watch Frailty and enjoy it on whatever level you want to enjoy it on, but do watch it, because it's just great on either level and comes highly, highly recommended from me.