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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
FRAILTY begins with Fenton Meiks, (Matthew McConaughey) a troubled-looking young man, has walking into an FBI office and claiming to know the identity of the serial killer known as "God's Hands." The story unfolds in flashback. Fenton describes growing up with his widower father (Bill Paxton) and younger brother Adam in a generally happy household. Then one night, he gets the boys out of bed to tell them that they're living in the End Times, and God has selected the family to seek out and destroy demons. The demons look like ordinary humans, but Dad knows the difference -- he can see their sins at the moment he dispatches them by touching them with his hands. He uses a divinely selected ax and a lead pipe to perform the actual "destruction" of the demons. Adam, the younger and more pious of the brothers, believes what his father tells him and immediately throws himself into the role of divinely appointed avenger. Fenton, older, keeps his doubts secret until his father actually drags home a bound woman, who he executes in front of his children. Fenton is horrified, but forced to take an increasingly active role in the "demon" hunting. Dad realizes it's difficult for his son to accept his new role in the universe. Nevertheless, as Fenton resists more and more, his father takes increasingly stern action.
Is it any good?
Many great horror movies deal with families, as that is where we are all most sensitive; this uneven film exploits that vulnerability but is ultimately unsatisfying. The genuinely horrifying premise of this film is undercut by its ham-handed writing, which makes the plot even less plausible. The dialogue is full of wooden homilies like "The truth is pretty unbelievable sometimes." The dialogue is unintentionally funny at a number of points, especially when Bill Paxton is carefully delivering exposition on his insane plot. What is supposed to be a chilling matter of fact tone sounds more like a cold reading of the script.
This is not to say that the film is not frightening. The "destructions" are horrifying. The fact that we do not see the worst leaves the graphic details up to our imaginations. The scenes of Fenton locked in the cellar are extremely harrowing. But the most disturbing aspect of the plot is that the murders take place in front of the young sons, and committed by a beloved father. As Alfred Hitchcock said of the death of a child in an early film of his, "It was an abuse of cinematic power." For a film as empty as Frailty, there is simply no excuse.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about both Adam and Fenton's reaction to their father's revelations. What would you do if your father or mother told you they were commanded by God to kill the guilty? An especially troubling aspect of the movie implies that the father's visions are real, and that God has actually selected a number of people to kill specific evildoers with an ax. Families of any faith will want to discuss the difference between the movie's depiction and real-world religion.
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