Frailty is a movie that would probably be a lot more popular if it were released today than it was when it first reached theaters 20 years ago. While it’s not a movie most of us have heard of, this Bill Paxton movie makes a lot of top 10 lists. Now, new audiences are discovering the film as it hits YouTube for free streaming.
One of the first things to know is that Frailty is a horror movie, and it’s dark. It’s difficult describing something as a “horror” movie, because the genre at this point covers such a wide range of stories. This isn’t the kind where things pop out at you and make you jump. This is a dark story full of murder, parental relationships, and unbelievable circumstances. While it’s generally reviewed well and been well liked, those who don’t like it have two big concerns. One is that some felt the performances read as cold or stiff. The other is that some of the material in the story is particularly disturbing.
This story meets Matthew McConaughey as Adam Meiks, as he is recounting some childhood experiences to the police. He comes in to tell them that he knows who a famous killer is. How? Because the killer was his father, played by Bill Paxton. As Matthew McConaughey recounts his experiences to the police, we watch it all happen in flashbacks. His father made a list of people he decided needed to be killed, he said because they were demonic. He brings his two sons along for this experience, one of them being Matthew McConaughey himself. The sons argue over what their father is doing. Is Bill Paxton’s character doing the lord’s work? Or is he just killing people? How do you make sense of that as a child when this person is your father?
In the trailer below, you get a look at Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey’s characters. The adult Matthew McConaughey is particularly interesting in this role. Now that he’s all grown up, he wants someone to know what he witnessed. But was he really witnessing his father do these things? The police don’t believe him, because it’s such a dark and disturbing story. And then there’s the question. Was his father a dark person doing terrible things in front of him, because he believed things that weren’t true? Or if Matthew McConaughey making this up? Is he that one that believes things that aren’t true? There are a lot of dark and horrific questions like that in Frailty.
The part where things become too disturbing and went too far for some audiences were the scenes where Bill Paxton’s character commits murders in front of his children. The crime story and dark elements for this movie went particularly far, and that’s part of why it makes the top of so many “Best in Horror” lists.
Roger Ebert loved the film and gave it four stars. Thought Catalog says it’s the creepiest horror movie you’ve never seen. Today, the reviews echo this theme that it’s the best horror you’ve never seen. At the time this Bill Paxton movie released, it only made $17 million at the box office on an $11 million budget. That’s not a big winner for the studio, but it could have been worse. Horror movies are often not big earners, but with the stars involved, they liked expected a bigger result than they got.
For Bill Paxton, Frailty came after some of the movies we know him best for today. By 2001, he’d already been in Apollo 13, Twister, Tombstone, and Titanic. Five years later in 2006, he began his run as Bill Henrickson on Big Love. He starred in that series on HBO for five years, where he played a polygamist with three wives. Interestingly, one of his co-stars from Big Love appeared in Frailty. Luke Askew played Hollis Green on the show, one of Big Love’s biggest villains.
Unfortunately, Bill Paxton passed away in 2017. He last appeared in The Circle, which released a few months later. He suffered from a stroke following heart surgery. He was 61 years old. He left behind a long legacy as an actor. While Frailty is not his most popular movie, and few have seen it, it does stand out as one of the more interesting horror movies around and one that stands out in his body of work. If you’d like to watch Frailty, you’ll need to head directly to YouTube, where you can stream it for free.