What I Liked: What an incredible story. It goes like this: in 1979 Texas a single father (Bill Paxton (The Terminator, Predator 2)) is raising two prepubescent boys (Matt O’Leary (Live Free or Die Hard) and Jeremy Sumpter (Soul Surfer)) and everything seems hunky dory. The boys go to school and help out around the house while the father works to support the family. You know, they love each other ‘n shit.
Then all of a sudden the father wakes the boys up in the middle of the night and tells them that an angel spoke to him and the end of the world is coming. The angel gave him and his sons the task of destroying demons; who, how and when would be outlined later. Over the next couple of weeks the father has more visions and collects the materials needed to slay the evil and the names of who must go. He explains that on the outside the demons will look like regular people but they really aren’t. He also says that when you touch these so called “people” you will be able to see what sinister acts they had committed.
So the father kidnaps folks and kills them in front of his kids all the while believing that he’s doing God’s work. He even says that he’s never hurt a human in his life, he’s only destroyed demons. The older son doesn’t believe this and is terrified of the man that he loves but is too scared to do anything about it. The younger son is still young enough that he admires his father and has full faith that he’s telling the truth about the demons and what must be done to them.
This is one heavy fuckin’ plot and I absolutely love the truly horrific ideas it lays down. Plus it doesn’t let up. There’s almost no filler here with so much goddamn tension throughout.
What I Didn’t Like: The cinematography is very plain. It’s serviceable but unexciting.
The acting is fine but nothing that great either. Sometimes the delivery of the deranged dialogue can border on being a little silly even.
The double twist ending wasn’t necessary at all. Actually I don’t like how the entire movie was structured with one of the sons telling his story to an FBI agent in modern day. Emotions and thoughts are explained through narration that the audience would’ve picked up on by itself. They should’ve jettisoned the hopping back and forth bullshit and had the whole thing take place in 1979.
Overall Impression: Truth be told I only checked this out because it was the first movie that Bill Paxton directed (he’s only done one other) and I expected it to be nothing more than a mere curiosity. But Jesus he picked one helluva script to shoot his first time out. It was written by Brent Hanley by the way who essentially hasn’t done anything else. So the reason for the film feeling flat on a technical level is because of Paxton’s inexperience, even though he had a strong nose for a great story.
But to be fair this would’ve been a tough picture to make for anyone I think. You’ve got very dark subject matter, two little kids in the main roles, a psychotic father that has to undoubtedly believe in this bat shit crazy prophecy, it’s a period piece and there are a bunch of gruesome murders with an axe. I mean the psychological aspect alone would be exceedingly difficult to pull off. Everything needs to be just right in terms of tone to make it engaging and not depressing or comical. Unless you have an exceptional set of filmmakers coming together to make this delicate balancing act work then I would say this story would probably play better in a book format.
But anyway, I would recommend this one on the frightening ideas it presents alone. It’s not the best movie and I would be hard pressed to call it great even due to the execution certainly lacking in many areas. But ignoring the ending and the narration the story is one of the best and craziest I’ve ever heard.