Saturday, January 2, 2010

Favourite Film of the Decade #3 - Frailty

Well, we're up to #3 on my list and I know you must be thinking, "Hey cockfucker! I thought you were the dude who just loooooveed horror films. Looks like you're a lying piece of human garbage. Fucking fuckface! I don't see one horror film on your stupid, horribly written, godawful list. Seriously, fuck you Guitarbrother, fuck you."

In my defense, I do love the horror films, and I'm not like many of my brethren who have turned on my beloved genre (I don't automatically hate remakes, Eli Roth isn't a hack and I'm not going to wait 20 years to consider the films coming out today to be good once I get nostalgic), but there have just been so many good films coming out this decade that weren't horror. Even though this is the only horror flick on the list, I think my next 2 definitely appeal to the horror fan (much like Jodorowsky, Lynch and others appeal to them as well) though you wouldn't find them located in the horror section. Without question though, the 2000's were definitely the decade for horror after the meager offerings we had in the nineties after folks were sick of the slasher filled eighties. In early 2000 saying you were a horror fan to any serious film fan was the equivalent of saying you only watched films with anal fisting in them.

The one horror film I thought towered above the others released this decade was Bill Paxton's directorial debut (not including the wonderful Fish Heads video) Frailty. I saw this movie at least 4 times when it came out in theaters, being completely hypnotized by the style, story and performances. Anyone who hadn't seen it I made certain that I drilled it into their heads that Frailty was a must see and it was one of the most exciting and thoughtful horror films to come out in a long while. Most agreed (when they weren't so friggin' caught up in whether they knew "the twist" or not. When did movies become about guessing the ending?) but sadly not many other people went to see it. Too bad, with the exception of The Greatest Game Ever Played, Paxton seems to have given up on directing, even though I think Frailty ranks along with Night of the Hunter as the greatest films ever directed by actors. And unlike many other actors who've tried their hands at directing, Paxton showed a confidence with the style and pacing of the movie, along with getting great performances (2 of the fantastic performances were from children no less). Frailty is so much more than just an acting piece.

Frailty is steeped in insanity from the beginning. Paxton plays a father who believes God has told him that it is his and his sons' duty to kill demons disguised as regular human beings. So along with his trusty blessed axe, he goes about doing God's work. The black comedy in some of these scenes; Paxton finding the axe, the angel's (Uriel?) appearance to him at work, are hilarious in a way seen in very, very few films. You laugh at the pure lunacy of the situations, while still remaining on edge at what is happening. There's axe murders, child abuse and children being forced to murder, but Paxton handles the material in such a masterful way that it's never offensive.

We've seen Paxton play crazy before; The Dark Backward, The Vagrant, Weird Science, Near Dark, etc, but he's never played it in such a subtle way, making it much more menacing. The sincerity he shows in his madness is some of his best work as an actor. And the boys playing his sons, Adam and Fenton are great. Adam, who follows his father blindly, has some of the funniest moments and is easy to like in his naivety. And Fenton, who is the character the audience identifies with, is easy to sympathize with as he tries to bring sanity back to his family.

I don' want to give too much away, but upon second viewing, once you know "the twist" the film plays a lot different. It's much more of a tragedy rather than just a straight up horror film. Though Paxton himself might disagree. I really liked an interview I read with him back in the horror hating 2001s when the interviewer said that Frailty was more of a psychological thriller rather than a horror film. Paxton stopped him and said that it definitely "is" a horror film and he couldn't be more proud about that. He continued to say that horror is a great genre and he's proud his film is now amongst so many other great horror films. What a wicked dude.

Oddly enough, I just bought Frailty for my father this Xmas, it being one of his favourite films of all time as well. The film has a lot to say and I think it should appeal to just about anyone who is looking for a quality horror film. Let's just hope Paxton decides to direct again one day, if this is what he can do his first time out I can only imagine what amazing work we can expect from him in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I saw frailty years ago, and enjoyed it. I also own Frailty on DVD - but I haven't watched it yet. I suspect, now that I'm older, and able to appreciate movies more than I could when I was younger, that I would enjoy Frailty a lot more today.

    The comics about horror fans in the 1990s and 2000s were quite amusing, because I had very little interest in horror in the late-1990s and early 2000s. It wasn't until the mid-2000s that I rediscovered my love of horror, after seeing House of 1000 Corpses.