I am a huge horror buff and it would be easy to categorize the movie Frailty as a horror movie, but it would be too limiting. It mixes horror, psychological thriller and family drama together with such subtlety that you look forward to what happens next while simultaneously dreading it as well. The movie, written by Brent Hanley. and directed by actor Bill Paxton (Aliens, Titanic), is a study in the limits of faith, belief and family.
The movie begins with Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) sitting in the office of FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe). Fenton has turned himself in after stealing an ambulance with the body of his dead brother Adam. Now to my fellow geeks out there, you may recognize both Bill Paxton and Powers Boothe from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as S.H.I.E.L.D / HYDRA agent John Garrett (Paxton) and World Security Council Member / HYDRA leader Gideon Malick (Boothe) from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Paxton stars in the film as “Dad”. He has no other name in the film as it is told from the point of view of Fenton. He tells Doyle (Boothe) about how his brother is the infamous “God’s Hand” killer and that the killings originated with their father when they were boys. Doyle, who leads the task force searching for the killer, doesn’t believe him and Fenton begins to recall his childhood with his brother Adam and their father. The father and his two boys are happily living in Texas together with the father working in a garage and always being home in time to have dinner with his sons (the mother passed away after Adam’s birth). One night “Dad” goes into the boy’s room in the middle of the night, wakes them up and tells them that he’s had a vision from God telling him that they have been tasked with destroying demons in human form. Fenton, being the oldest, is naturally skeptical and Adam immediately believes his father. Even when he starts bringing home the “holy weapons” that God has sent to him and the vision of the names that God’s angels have given him of demons to destroy, Adam’s faith in his father is unwavering and Fenton becomes more and more scared.
The brilliance of this story is that because the father is a good, loving and decent man, his unshakable belief that he is performing the will of God makes it hard for the viewer to not feel sympathy for the situation that Fenton and Adam find themselves in, especially Fenton. Fenton loves his father deeply, but Dad and Adam’s behavior troubles Fenton, who just wants everything to go back to the way it was. When the father starts bringing the suspected demons home and killing them with both boys present after touching them and seeing their sins, there are moments that you are afraid for the boys but even more afraid that the father might be right because he is so convinced of the righteousness of his mission and his need to protect his boys.
There are several satisfying twists and turns that the movie makes between the story in the past that Fenton is telling to Agent Doyle and their journey in the present to find the remains of the “God’s Hand” killers victims. None of the twists seem forced and they unfold in a way that make you continue to question who is actually good and who is actually evil in the story. Even the ending leaves you wondering. I recommend you take a look at this movie which is available on HBO GO, HBO NOW and for purchase digitally through Amazon.com. If you decide to watch it or if you already have, let me know what you think either by leaving a comment on this page, or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.