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Film: Frailty

"You can't make things like that up, son. Killing people is wrong, destroying demons is good. Don't worry, God will send you your own list when you're older."
Dad Meiks

Frailty is a 2001 movie directed by Bill Paxton and starring Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe.

Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) comes to a FBI agent (Boothe) with information about the notorious God's Hand Killer, who has been terrorizing the state of Texas. Through flashbacks, we learn about Fenton, his brother Adam, and his father (Paxton) who has a religious experience that plunges the entire family into turmoil. The father gathers his sons together one morning and tells them they are now soldiers in a heavenly war, and are charged with destroying demons on earth. The revelation splits the family: Adam and his dad are on one side, believing they are destroying demons; meanwhile Fenton believes they are murdering innocent people and is torn between loving his father and thinking he's completely off his rocker. Fenton makes a fateful decision and has come to the agent's office to relieve his guilt and confess his family's buried secrets...

...or has he?

Beware of spoilers.


Theis film provides examples of:

  • Artistic License - Religion: The entire premise of the film. According to Christian tradition, demons are pure spirit, without bodies and which cannot be destroyed. Although, according to Christian teaching, it is possible for a demon to possess someone, the remedy for possession is an exorcism. Possessed people are just as much victims of demons as anyone else, and are not necessarily at fault for being possessed. Killing the possessed person would have absolutely no effect on the demon.
    • While this may be typical, it is not necessarily universally the perspective on the matter among Christians.
    • The Mieks call those who kill innocent people 'demons,' seemingly due to a lack of a better term more than anything.
    • From a different perspective: it's not like the guy is the popes right hand or something, he had a vision and believed it, all that might be needed for that (religion wise) is the belief that demons could exist. After all, how this stuff actually works could be different from how any earthly church believes it does.
  • An Axe to Grind:The axe is inscribed with "OTIS". Some fans think this is either the father's first name, the name of the ax, or an acronym meaning "Only The Innocent Survive".
    • Word of God is that the only reason "OTIS" was put there was so that you'd know at the end of the movie that it's still the same axe, making "Only The Innocent Survive" more of a backronym.
  • Cain and Abel: Played straight with Fenton and Adam, Fenton not being able to "See" the "Demons" and Adam being able to. Inverted as Adam ends up killing Fenton in the end.
  • Cassandra Truth
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted. One of the deleted scenes reveals that the family is Baptist. Bill Paxton says that he cut the scene because he wanted them to be, in his words, "generically Christian."
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Double subverted. When Adam and Fenton's father tells them about the visions he has seen, Adam accepts it unquestioningly while Fenton is deeply sceptical, and is presented as being in the right. But at the end, Fenton has become a deranged serial killer, and it turns out the visions Fenton and Adam's father had seen were real after all.
  • The Family That Slays Together
  • Flashback: Most of the movie, really.
  • Foreshadowing: The song the kids are singing at the beginning.
  • Genre Shift: The earlier parts of the film strongly seem to suggest that Adam and Fenton's father really has just lost his mind, but the ending seems to imply that he really was commanded by angels to kill demons, thus shifting the genre from psychological thriller to supernatural thriller.
  • Heel Realization: Subverted like whoa. At one point the father has Fenton build a dirt cellar and locks him in it so that Fenton can find his faith. Instead of realizing his dad was right, he realizes he is a demon. He buries an axe in his dad's chest and becomes a serial killer.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The sheriff.
  • Knight Templar: The dad. He even murders an innocent sheriff to prevent him from finding out about the plan (though he claims he had no choice), and comes within a hair of planting an axe in his son. He'd regret that he didn't do that later.
  • Only Sane Man: Fenton Meiks in the flashbacks. Or so we are led to believe.
  • No Name Given: Bill Paxton's character is never referred to by name.
  • Mission from God: The father claims to be on one. Turns out he was, and now Adam is too.
  • Meaningful Name: Adam Mieks sharing the same name as Adam of Adam And Eve.
  • Punny Name: The Meiks shall inherit the Earth.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Fenton's bedroom.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist : Granted, he's an Unreliable Narrator, but when Fenton is imprisoned in the hole by his father, is it summer vacation? Surely someone would notice him missing school, at least.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: If Adam can be believed, then he seems to do this, as the people he/his father kill do all seem to have done horrible things. But then again, Unreliable Narrator.
  • Telepathy: The father claims to have the ability to see people's sins by touching them. Given the way Adam finds out about Wesley murdering his mother, maybe he does.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: When Fenton realizes that he is a demon.
  • Trouble Entendre: "I promise to God I'll bury you here."
  • Twist Ending: The man who calls himself Fenton Meiks is really ADAM Meiks, and he's only telling the story in order to get Agent Doyle out of the office to be destroyed. Yep, the father was really called by God to destroy demons: Agent Doyle is one, and so is Fenton, who ended up becoming a serial killer. Adam has been carrying on his father's work.
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • Vertigo Effect: When the FBI agent meets the Sheriff, and doesn't recognize him as the guy from the night before who was the last person to see Wesley alive.
  • The Woobie : Those poor, poor kids.


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alternative title(s): Frailty
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