Back in 2001, a friend and I made our way out to watch Frailty on the big screen. Immediately after viewing the film, Frailty has been one of my favorite films and one I recommend to anyone who has not seen it. The film is more of a psychological thriller rather than a true horror film, but aspects of the film are quite horrific. Frailty manages to add an extra layer into the psychological reasoning for committing these murders making it an unique and underrated film. Besides, films that make me think are always going to be my cup of tea over films that do not. After all, every now and then one’s mind needs a good challenge.
The film focuses on flashbacks of the Meiks family and the ongoing investigation of the God’s Hand serial killer in present day. After receiving a letter from the son of the God’s Hand serial killer himself, FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) begins to explore the Meiks brothers. Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) reveals all the details of his and Adam’s childhood over the years and how their father forced made them accomplices in his murders. Correction. His demon-slayings.
According to their father, played by Bill Paxton, God gave him abilities to discover demons who roam the earth and it was his job to help God destroy them. At first, Fenton does not want any part in these killings. He did not believe in his father’s visions and viewed his father’s killings as murders not God’s work. Through Fenton’s eyes his father’s words did not make any sense. Why would his father gain the power to merely touch these people whom they have kidnapped and see all their deep dark secret crimes they have committed? However, he would not be the first serial killer to claim they were doing God’s work.
Furthermore, let me forewarn readers I cannot talk about this film without talking about the ending. This is your spoiler alert. As Fenton takes agent Doyle to the Rose Garden, where all his father’s and brother Adam’s victims are buried, Fenton reveals he is not who he says he is after all. Fenton is Adam, the brother who had no qualms in helping his father kill in the first place. He was the only one of the brothers who believed his father had these special powers that he spoke of and that one day he would have them too to carry on the legacy and help God. Adam then reveals that he used the God’s Hand nickname to lure his brother out of hiding.
When Fenton was younger, his father knew that he would have to murder his own child and could fathom such even though his son was on God’s list. Fenton also understood this and knew that one day Adam would have to be the one to kill him because he has kept all the bodies of the victims he had killed in his basement. The assumption is that not all the people that Fenton murdered however were demons, because Fenton was not blessed with the same gift his father and Adam were because he did not believe in the gift in the first place.
Afterward, Adam then explains to agent Doyle that the reason he has lured Doyle out to the Rose Garden is because he has not been a good man. When Adam touches Doyle, Adam’s touch reveals that Doyle has killed his mother in cold blood. We also see the flashbacks of all the other demons killed throughout the film and their bad deeds as well. As insane as the story might appear there also seems to be some truth behind what Adam has been saying all these years.
In addition to a great plot, the performances within the film are magnificent. I must start off with one of the stars and director of the film, Bill Paxton. Despite the subject matter, Paxton has a way of delivering the material with ease. A sincerity there that I am not sure most other actors could have pulled off with such ease.
Then the two boys within the film who play the younger versions of Adam and Fenton. Both Matt O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter do a fantastic job in their roles. As stated before with Paxton, I cannot fathom having to pay such a role and remain sincere. After all, the film asks that children deal with the fact God has asked them to kill demons that one cannot truly tell is a demon, but merely a human at first, would be crazy enough as an adult.
Furthermore, when one has to deal with such situations as a child and take over for their father one day is an entirely different story. The fact Fenton feels his father is crazy is something that any child would think in such a situation. If the film did not touch on this through one of the children it would be far less realistic. If Paxton handled the subject matter any differently the film would not have been as successful.
Last, but not least I must mention Matthew McConaughey’s performance. Considering the twist ending, McConaughey plays his role perfectly. Never once does his character give anything away, but merely tells the story agent Doyle wanted to hear. He continues to make the courageous film work on its many levels of complexity and remain sincere as Paxton within his role.
Frailty is a film that manages to take some risky subject matter and make it work. This is one film that I have not been able to get entirely out of my mind since the first viewing. With the complexities and issues that the film brings up, this is a piece that will have viewers talking for a long time to come. If nothing else the film will definitely make someone look at the father/son relationship dynamic far differently.