Frayed (2007)

AUGUST 25, 2009

GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL, SLASHER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

Before I begin my Frayed review proper, I must apologize to actress Tasha Smith-Floe. At some point during the film, I made a joke that the only reason she was in the movie was due to her slight resemblance to Megan Fox. But later I discovered that the film was shot in 2005, long before Fox had taken over our national media. So, Ms. Smith-Floe: my bad. And you’re nowhere near as annoying as that waste of flashbulbs.

Anyway, Frayed is a pretty damn good movie, but it comes with a caveat. At this point I will be spoiling the ending, so please stop reading if you haven’t seen the film yet. Just check out the film, then come back and see if you agree with my assessment.

Still there? OK. Spoilers begin now.

Frayed makes a great example for why folks shouldn’t watch as many horror movies as I do. Had I not been overdosed on so many slashers and psychological thrillers and such, I might not have noticed the telltale signs of a “big twist”. The setup doesn’t seem to lend itself to such things; it’s a fairly standard slasher plot, right down to the escaped mental patient and kids camping in the woods. But if you know all these movies as well as the filmmakers obviously do, you’re probably going to instantly wonder why we’re following a hospital security guard who was attacked by the killer instead of the kids in the woods, and why all of the flashbacks to the killer show him as a child and never as an adult, and also why so many kills occur off-screen. Yes, the guard is actually the killer, and the killer in a clown mask is just his High Tension-esque hallucination. It’s a great twist, and for the most part they do it without cheating (the two “fight” on a couple occasions), but again, it’s a bit too easy to spot if you’ve seen those movies. Hell, even someone with enough exposure to slasher films will probably start to question why so many kills are occurring out of the sight of our Final Girl.

Other than that (and a bit of a length issue - 110 minutes? Really?), it’s one of the best slashers I’ve seen in quite a while. The opening scene is one of the best horror openers in recent memory, and the film as a whole favors suspense and atmosphere over a body count. I do not make kind comparisons to Halloween easily (i.e. usually it's "Fuck you for ripping off Halloween!"), but for the most part I’d be comfortable with making that association here. Had I spent another half hour or so completely buying into the ruse (I figured it out 15 minutes in), I’d probably have liked it even more. But in a way that’s even more of a compliment to the film - I wasn’t buying half of what they were showing me, but I was still engaged by it.

I also loved the killer’s look. Finally, a killer clown that’s not a complete letdown! The mask looks like it was made from a pillowcase and a mop, but it works in a demented, low-key way, and gave me slight Clownhouse flashbacks (good, suspenseful parts, not weird, pedophilic parts) to boot. After Final Draft, Fear Of Clowns, Amusement, etc, I had begun to give up hope that I would ever enjoy a killer clown movie.

Another thing that worked in the film’s favor was the realistic portrayal of the Final Girl. She smokes, she (lightly) drinks, and she at least plans to have sex. Despite the heavy Halloween influence, she is not a mousy Laurie Strode type - she’s a good, but NORMAL kid. Her friend (Smith-Floe) is the traditional “wild girl” best friend, but again, in a normal way. So many modern slasher movies paint their characters as total extremes (My Bloody Valentine’s women, for example), so it’s nice to see two girls that are largely believable. Kudos to whichever writer (the film boasts a positively Dwight Littleian FIVE credited screenwriters, including directors Rob Portmann and Norbert Caoili) was responsible for the characterizations.

And for a first time film from the team, it’s quite impressive on a technical level. I don’t quite understand the technical aspects, but it sounds like they put film lenses on HD cameras, resulting in a look that costs little but looks far better than most digital shoots. Only the inherent difference in capturing motion betrays the digital source; if you pause it at any point you will swear it’s film. And apart from the flashbacks to a certain photo (I’m not going to spoil EVERYTHING) that the killer keeps having, the editing is refreshingly old-school as well. Long takes, no avid farts, no hyper-edited action scenes where you can’t tell what the hell is going on... good stuff. I just wish they cut down on the photo scenes; not only DO they suffer from post-MTV editing, but they also tip off the twist that you shouldn’t be expecting anyway. Cutting a few out (or all but one, just to set it up) would have worked wonders.

While many recent Lionsgate DVDs have been unusually slim with extras, this one delivers the goods. An enjoyable commentary with the filmmakers is worth a listen, they point out little hints that I had missed, which is always fun. They also bring up “Quitter” socks, based on the HBO special from behind the scenes of Lethal Weapon 2 where Chevy Chase and Mel Gibson complained about the quality of socks Warner Bros was giving them, a gag I always had an affinity for. Then a trio of featurettes detail the production and effects work - not really in-depth, but well constructed nonetheless. Then there’s the trailer for it and a reel of other LG releases, which is thankfully short (only four trailers!). The transfer is quite good as well.

Not sure why they’ve been sitting on this one for so long (last week’s Cravings was a few years old too), but I’m glad they picked it up and gave it a respectable release. I’m guessing most folks WON’T be able to spot the twist so early (if at all) and will enjoy being duped, the way I was with some of the twist films it reminded me of (such as Alone In The Dark) that I saw before I became such a pain in the ass. Recommended!

(And Lionsgate - will you add me to your screener list already? Damn. I see no quotes on the cover; you could have had “One of the best slashers in years!” on there!)

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

27 comments:

  1. So I'm still a little confused... Did only the two security guards die or did he really kill all those people in the picture and just create this imaginary story inside his head or was the whole movie just an imaginary story inside his head???

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  2. i dont get it. so did the dad really kill the mom or was that all in his head too and he was just one abused fucked up kid?

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  3. IKNOW i am soo confused.

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  4. Why does it show the picture from 1974 and the kids look the same?

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  5. The father was the killer. The son went into the institution and started to distort reality. This distortion lead to him thinking he was a killer and that he was killing off random people. Those random people were the faces from the photograph he saw through the hole in the door, they were manifestations of what he thought his family and others were. His father has another child with the new stepmother at the end who he is also abusing which you can see by the look on the child's face.

    Not that complicated you just have to think about is all. They give you tons of clues.

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  6. Thank you for the recap, because after watching the movie I was totally confused, I'm now going to rewind the movie and actually "get it" :)

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  7. 6/2/2010's post is a great explanation to the movie! I will be able to sleep tonight without my mind going haywire. thanks!

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  8. I've gotta say, I was really impressed with this movie. I started it expecting to bail halfway through and immediately changed my mind. Also, I guess I am not on your level yet. I got so caught up in the pre-twist that I didn't see the real one coming. I spent almost the whole film going, "I get it I get it. He's the killer. Whoop de doo." I am never surprised but that one really got me.

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  9. Thanks so much for this review. It was spot-on. We just finished it, and while we were pretty sure what was going on, there was still some confusion at the end. (Great story, bad acting and editing.) A quick google search brought me to your wonderful blog.

    -K

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  10. This review does not do it justice. The big twist you are referring to is not the twist of the movie. The director wanted everyone to know that the killer was actually fake and a split personality. He did this so that he could actually hide the real twist. Which is really what happened to kurt as a child, and what really happened to his mother. This was a great twist and left me with my jaw open. No one could have expected the father to be a pedophile.

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  11. I think the movie was good being it kept you thinking and on your toes. Alot of things were left out I thought while watching but only because I figured it would all come together at the end. As far as the daughter's friends being killed, including her {girl} friend really didnt make any since being the dad had supposidly killed the son on side the road earlier in the movie. Basically there were alot of pointless scenes and only made the movie more complicated to figure out. Overall I think the movie was interesting but quite stupid, so to speak. No real meaning what so ever. Remake

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  12. MOVIE SPOILER and Explanation---- OK first of all Kirk never killed anyone, 2nd the family that is in the movie is not his real family its made up by his imagination, From looking at that picture outside the door of the hospital that is why the show you at the end os the movie everyone that he somehow involved in his story, 3rd he did escape but was found by his father and shot dead on the side of the road. 

    The real family and the real sister are at the end of the movie and i believe that the kid in the bed is his new son and also doing the same to him. There is no part 2 because kirk is deaD and everyone thinks he was the one that killed his mother. Remember Kirk made a part in his imagination for everyone on that picture frame. None of it really happened

    -Securityofficer01 from Youtube

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  13. Can the director please explain wtf I just watched. I can't be certain about what I think is going on.

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  14. Just read 2 comments or any other explanation...the movie was really good reminds me of identity. Same concept but the man doesn't escape prison/Asylum

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  15. its about to be 4 AM and this mask scared the shit out of me... Good movie although it was confusing, and well the comments which stated that the ppl in the picture were only in his imagination makes so much sense. And well goodluck to his second son (the sheriffs) cause well his pants arent going to be up for long.

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  16. Great Review! Couldn't have said it better myself, Was looking for a good horror flick been a while since I had seen 1, pull up netflix n there's 'frayed' I RECOMMEND THIS FILM TO ANYONE!

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  17. I totally don't see the merit of this movie. I spotted the 'twist' as soon as the guard started acting weird in the car with the guy who picked him up, which I wouldn't mind if the film wasn't so glacially paced. They could easily have cut 30 minutes out of this mess without losing anything. After the initial sequence, which was indeed very promising, I just couldn't believe how slow this was. I also don't see how this is anything other than a complete rip off of Haloween, albeit with the 'twist.' Usually I can at least understand your arguments for or against a film, but in this case, I really don't get it.

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  18. @ last comment

    Anonymous said...
    This review does not do it justice. The big twist you are referring to is not the twist of the movie. The director wanted everyone to know that the killer was actually fake and a split personality. He did this so that he could actually hide the real twist. Which is really what happened to kurt as a child, and what really happened to his mother. This was a great twist and left me with my jaw open. No one could have expected the father to be a pedophile.

    THIS is the real twist.

    It's obvious that the guard's a split personality with all the off camera kills and the obvious clues. You're led into thinking "Ah I'm smart I've figured it all already...this movie sucks." And then BAM! We are shown the true story and how it all fits together and how Kurt has imagined it all. How else does his "sister" know what really happened to him?

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  19. Wow, great movie. By reading a few comments i finally understand it, really a great and phenomanal movie. Plus the twists were incredible. Favorite scary movie now, a lil confusing, but i got it and im defgunna check out other films by this director and writer. Whoo!

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  20. Gary is the actual security guard whose body was later found outside the hospital grounds. Everyone referred to Kurt as "Gary" because they assumed that was him, since Kurt had stolen Gary's uniform with the Gary name tag on it and Gary's body was not found until the end. Everyone who ran into Gary did not know who the real Gary looked like, so they assumed it was him.

    Of course, keep in mind that the only real thing that happened was everything that led up to Kurt escaping, falling down the hillside and hitting his head on the side of the road. and where Kurt's father drives up in his police car and shoots him. Everything that happened in between with Sara, Veronica, their boyfriends and Jolene was not real. That whole scenario was an elaborate fantasy based on the drama going on inside Kurt's head. He played out that scenario coming to terms with what caused his mind to snap in the first place when he was a child - the realization that his father was molesting him and that his father killed his mother, only to blame it on him, to hide the fact he was sexually abusing Kurt.

    The masked killer was created inside Kurt's head based on his last memory of his father abusing him wearing the clown make up. The personalities in his fantasy scenario were based on years and years of staring at the photograph he saw everyday outside his hospital door. In his mind, he began to imagine these people in the photograph as real people in his life. He never saw his real sister Sara after he was locked up, so he imagined that Sara looked like the girl in the photo and that her best friend might look like the girl next to her in the photo, etc.. After awakening from his elaborate "fantasy", that's when his father pulled up in his car and shot him along side the road. The bulk of the movie was all based on what Kurt played out in his head as he finally came to his realization of events when he was a child, his last thoughts if you will, as he died. The tragedy is that now that finally Kurt has come to grips with the truth about his father's abuse and murder of his wife that Kurt so long felt responsible for, he gets killed before he can say or do anything about it. His secret dies at the side of the road with him.

    During the end credits, when Pat comes home, the people there are his REAL daughter, Sara, his REAL new wife, and his REAL son who is pretending to be asleep in his bedroom. Based on the look of fear in the boy's eyes, you finally realize that the nightmare Pat created for Kurt is beginning all over again with his new son. That is the true horror of the film.

    I hope this clarifies things for you.

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  21. People keep saying it was a surprise that the father was molesting him. I though the drawing in his cell, with a tiny white person cowering in the corner of the room, with a huge black figure in the doorway, was a pretty massive hint. Knew it right there.

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  22. When I first watched the film it completely mind fucked me, but I finally get all of it now. Howevder, 15 minutes in I guessed Kurt was being abused and I guessed "Gary" was Kurt 45 minutes or so into it. I didn't quite get that it was for the most part a figment of Kurt's imagination until I read all these comments. It was driving me mental for a while. Good film though.

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  23. I think the movie was amazing once I understood the ending better. I knew Gary was the killer, but never imagined all those twists. Glad to get full understanding of it now. Although one small thing confuses me - how did Kurt get the security uniform?? I know he didn't kill anyone,but did he really attack a guard to get it?? The ending makes the movie very sad, knowing poor Kurt didn't do anything wrong and his dad just ruined his whole life, then killed him.

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  24. Nice movie. Just watched it. Though I was really confused about the ending, but now its all clear after reading all the above comments. Thanks to all the persons who have commented above and most of all the creator of the blog. Lucky I came across it. Though it was a bit sad that the whole movie was just an imagination but still the twist at the end was really really good.
    To the above comment: Kurt (Gary) really killed just those two security guards before taking the uniform of one of them and then he was killed by Pat on the road.

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  25. I am soooooooo thankful for all the above comments-I just watched the film and was so confused by the ending-I had worked out that the clown/father was abusing him at the beginning when the mum went to check on him-don't ask me how I know. However, the fact that it was the dad who killed the mum did surprise me when I saw it at the end, but the middle was a total mind f**k! So I'm pleased it has been explained, as I actually somehow missed him being shot by the roadside!
    Thank goodness for the internet!!!

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