Buried Treasure: Frailty an unappreciated work of chilling art


Frailty is one of the best thriller/horror films you have probably never heard of…but never fear, you can find it on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime.

I have a very scientific method by which I choose my “Buried Treasure” films; I ask three or four of my fellow horror-loving friends if they have seen it. None of those asked had seen this gem of a movie, but when I played it for my horror-loving sister, she loved it.

Frailty is the first film directed by Bill Paxton, and, as a bonus, he also appears in it alongside Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. In my opinion, this is one of Paxton’s strongest performances, where he portrays a man who goes from calm, steady family man to religious zealot. You are never quite sure which of these personalities is the real man (or if both are accurate).

The movie begins with Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) telling Boothe’s FBI Agent Doyle that his brother Adam is the serial killer everyone has been trying to apprehend, the God’s Hand Killer. He claims Adam killed himself, and wants to honor his promise to bury Adam in the rose garden in their old hometown of Thurman.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

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During the drive to Thurman, Fenton tells Doyle about his and Adam’s childhood, specifically during the summer of ’79. The boys were raised by their father, who is brilliantly portrayed by Paxton as loving and attentive. All of that changes when he wakes them up one night to tell them that he was visited by an angel, who tells him that God wants him to destroy demons on earth. These demons will appear to be human, and, as a family, they must work together to rid the world of them.

Dad begins to compile a list of names (given to him by the angel). He abducts a person on the list, brings them home, and calls his sons to witness as he touches the “demon” and is shown via a vision what horrible things he or she has done. In the most disturbing aspect of this film, he kills the victims with an axe, in the presence of his two young sons.

The two boys react differently to their father’s claim. Adam clearly idolizes Dad and believes 100% in everything he is told, but Fenton believes his father has gone insane and attempts to stop the killings, with disastrous results.

I cannot for the life of me understand why this movie is not considered a classic in the horror/thriller category. It has a fantastic cast (including the kids), it’s creepy, slightly bloody, and disturbing (mainly due to the violent slaughter of the “demons” in front of young Adam and Fenton). And best of all, it has a great twist!

Frailty was generally well-reviewed upon its release in 2001. Roger Ebert gave it four stars, calling it “an extraordinary work”, and Bloody Disgusting gave it an honorable mention in its list of the 20 best horror films of the 2000s. Coincidentally, both Powers Boothe and Bill Paxton died in 2017 — Paxton in February and Boothe in May.

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Seen Frailty? Think the Bill Paxton film is underrated? Let the angels and demons know what you think in the comment section below.