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Demon Driven



Frailty (R)
Lions Gate Films

You got your sleepy little Texas town, Thurman, where the motherless Meeks family lives in seclusion behind the public rose garden. You got your rainy Texas nights and foggy mornings. You got your tough Texas law man. And you got your ax murderer. Basically in Frailty you got your classic Texas gothic horror tale, acted and directed, yep, by a bunch of Texans.

You got your quiet, everyman Texan, Bill Paxton (A Simple Plan, Apollo 13) directing here and playing the widower Meeks, a loving daddy to his two little boys Fenton (Matthew O'Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter). But God or an angel or somethin' visits Daddy one night an' tells him he will lead him to three magical weapons and will reveal the names of demons living as regular humans on Earth who must be eliminated. So Daddy becomes a serial killer, and his boys grow up a little messed up in the head.

Skip to the future, FBI headquarters in Dallas where agent Wesley Doyle (long tall Texan Powers Boothe) works late at night while the rain drips outside his window. Waiting to see him is a fella' calls himself Fenton (pretty-boy Texan Matthew McConaughey) -- Fenton Meeks. Seems Fenton knows the identity of a serial killer Doyle's been huntin' down, the "God's Hand" killer. It's his little brother Adam, says Fenton, and in a somber voice, he proceeds to tell their family's sad story.

Now Bill Paxton knows Texas and small towns and rain and fog and little boys and creepy, dark rose gardens and, by golly, he knows a Texas accent when he hears one. He gives us plenty of atmosphere, lots and lots of creepy atmosphere, so much you want to check under the bed before going to sleep after seeing Frailty. But his movie loses its way when Daddy starts chopping heads. We get bodies piling up in the rose garden like boards in a lumberyard. Don't they have groundskeepers in Texas who might notice all those freshly covered holes?

Frailty is moody as a preacher's wife and scary as all get-out. But it tries to outsmart us in the end and gets us all confused about that demon stuff. Are the people Daddy kills really demons? Is Daddy a demon? Is Fenton a demon? Adam? Agent Doyle? I like a good murder mystery as much as the next 'un, but ol' Bill Paxton and Frailty -- well, Hitchcock they ain't. Let's just say Frailty'll scare the pants off of you, then leave you with no place to hide.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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