FRAILTY (2001)

A man confesses to an FBI agent his family’s story of how his religious fanatic father’s visions lead to a series of murders to destroy supposed “demons.” Directed by Bill Paxton. A terrifying low-budget thriller that packs a greater wallop than most of the high-priced studio scarefests. The demon-destroying axe is inscribed with the letters OTIS. The significance of this writing is never given. Fans have speculated that Otis Meiks is the true name of Bill Paxton’s character “Dad.” Others believe OTIS to be an acronym for Only The Innocent Survive. The film is set in Texas and has three Texas-born actors as top-billed stars: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe. The scenes of the lengthy car ride of Agent Doyle and his witness, were shot on a sound stage. Director of photography Bill Butler had crew members slighting shaking the car and moving lights and props to create the illusion of moving through the night. Bill Paxton’s directorial debut. Allegedly, the title Frailty (which is never spoken in the film) refers not to the slow disintegration of the family, but to the very low budget for the movie. Lion’s Gate considered changing the title to “God’s Hands” (which is a phrase spoken in the film) but Paxton and writer Brent Hanley insisted against this. Ironically, the Brazilian title is ‘A Mão do Diabo’ (The Devil’s Hand’). Directors James Cameron, Sam Raimi and author Stephen King all singled out Frailty for high praise. King thought it one of the best horror movies of its year. Loosely based on the case of American serial killer Joseph Kallinger who murdered three people and tortured four families. He committed these crimes with his 13-year-old son Michael between 1974-1975 in New Jersey. Kallinger pleaded insanity, claiming God had told him to kill. At the title credit (01:12) in the writer commentary, Brent Hanley says “Frailty to me was always about the frailty of perception, the frailty of morality, the frailty of right and wrong.” At 02:16 he adds “I liked the idea of an abstract title.”

 

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