There are demons among us
We've had a good run of mindless fun here as of late. Plenty of movies that didn't require a whole lot of thinking, just to sit back and enjoy - some even that were improved by not thinking too much about it! Well, tonight's option is gonna flip that switch to get a little more out of that wrinkled blob in our skulls. Grab your sleuth hat and your crusader garb, it's time to find out just how belief-worthy Frailty is.
If you didn't catch it from my not-so-stealthy implications earlier, there's a bit of religious subtext in this. In fact, I guess calling it a subtext isn't really all that honest, as most of the plot happens because of it in one way or another - but it's not something overtly preachy or biblically adapted in the sense. Still, even with just the case being "God's assigned me a mission" it could cause a division in potential viewers given how touchy some folks can be on that. For the more open-minded of the faithful or non-believers though, they should find that at it's worst it's just a motivational sendoff that gets the plot in action and gives us our grounds for the story, and at best it's something that you could really look into and start putting some heavy religious thoughts into - even in the theoretical "what would I do" scenario.
The story starts in the present and jumps a lot to the past. There are a few things I'd like to address here, as one relates to past grievances and one is just straight up merits of the media type that we don't see used that often for some reason. See, we start in the present, and then jump back to the past - but it's how it executes this that I feel like needs to be praised. Instead of having two characters sit there and talk, relating the story verbally while we stare at a couple characters in what sometimes can be known as "talking heads" scenes, they start it off with just enough talking before cutting to a flashback. The thing about movies is they are a visual medium - we watch movies, as opposed to reading books or listening to music - and it's always a little disappointing in a movie when someone references something that happened before that we were never privy to - such as that great event or life-changing moment - and we are never shown it. Here, however, instead of a man just relating his childhood story to an FBI agent sitting across the room from him, we instead set up the fact that he's going to relate the story, and then dive into scenes that take place back when the speaker was a kid - showing us the viewers what he's filling the FBI agent in on with just words. Of course, there's also the "story starts later on, removing the tension of the characters talking being killed" bit that I always normally would complain about in something like a horror movie. The key here, however, is that the story is almost irrelevant to the two characters we see, instead the story is in fact about a family dynamic and receiving visions from God telling them to hunt down demons and destroy them - all of which comes about from the main focus of the movie, being the mystery.
And the mystery works well. Our opening credit montage shows all sorts of crime scene themed photos and headlines speaking of a "God Hand' killer and his many victims. When we finally hit the FBI building at present, and hear of a man who wants to meet with the head man to discuss who the killer is, part of us wonders who the man is and the majority of us immediately focuses on the mystery of who the killer is and why or how the man knows who it is. As the story unfolds, we question what's going to happen next, or the occasional unanswered thing such as "but why did God choose them?" We then find ourselves asking about if the father and youngest are crazy, or if in fact this family is really fighting off demons instead of just committing serial murder. While all of these questions come up (smoothly I might add), the movie will return to the present to further the story there, proceeding from one spot to another, and feeling as though the timeline of everything is all sound. By the time the movie ends, few questions remain and so many small things from throughout the story suddenly become these enlightened little objects that were shouting at you of their importance or relevance like some kind of highlighted object in a video game.
But enough about the plot, interesting and well played as it may be. The thing about a good mystery is that the more you know of it the less thrilling it is to experience, and who would I be to take that from you - specifically after having edited my long-form format to exclude three paragraphs of plot synopsis. Instead, lets move on to the actors, as a few familiar faces are here. The acting across all the adults is good or great, and admittedly the conversation between our FBI man and the mystery tattler is so comfortable to listen to that it could probably have put me to sleep if I were to lay down and close my eyes. Still, emotions get handled quite well, and Bill Paxton really shines on walking that line between a loving father and a man obsessed with his mission from God. The two kids also do a pretty darn good job - especially when you take into account the context of what they are working with here. It would have been incredibly easy for them to get really cheesy very quickly with what they have, but the do a great job of playing it straight and even rock some of the main emotion shots present in the movie.
Most of the movie feels shot quite close, be it either relation to the camera or the surroundings. I'm not sure if this was intended or not, since I wasn't present at the making of the movie, but despite having a few of those wide-open shots or pans, a lot of things feel very close nit, which can add both a feeling of calm or tension, depending on the moods of the actors in a scene. In one instant the atmosphere can feel loving with the very next feeling uneasy and a bit confusing, helping to add to those moments when the narration of the child comes in to elaborate just how in turmoil he feels at the moment. In general, most the line deliveries are also very easy to hear and understand, which is always a plus. I do admit, however, that towards the beginning I was a little worried that the score was going to constantly overpower the actors over the course of the movie, but by the time it got to the first flashback the problem seemed to be gone entirely as far as me noticing it.
Costumes and effects aren't terrible, albeit quite limited in the sense of anything fancy. Plenty of characters have costumes, such as "FBI agent" or "Sheriff" or "Mechanic" - but only one has something that most wouldn't just consider an everyday wardrobe sort of thing - and that's the single angel we see in the entire movie. This guy comes down looking splendid and impressive, with a right mane and a sword all ablaze - and although I've sen effects done better, it was still quite well done anyways. There's also a few others that are almost more lighting department impressions, where things are lit in such a way that you'd expect to hear that classic Legend of Zelda item acquisition sound effect in the next scene. There is some gore, although it's largely limited to just blood as opposed to any real violence outside of people getting wonked in the head by a pipe to knock them out. Rather old sensibilities in that regard. If anything, I think the only thing that I do feel obligated to complain about is the fact that I feel like they may have ripped off some of the music from Alien: Ressurection - which just seems so weird to me.
If you want a movie that's got some murder and mystery, good acting and a smoothly moving plot that can give you a little bit of wondering and probably leave a few people surprised while the rest state "called it" from the corner of the couch, this might be a good option. It puts a potential fantasy spin something very real in presentation that will keep you waiting till the end to find out if it's lunacy or faith that wins out. Despite slower moments, nothing ever feels to drag down so bad you wish they'd just get on with it, and it uses flashbacks in a great manner to show us a story while still creating more mystery out of it. I'd say this one is worth checking out.