Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 19, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Frailty is an irregular B horror movie. Also a religio-nutso thriller. Plus, it’s a twisted bonding movie about a good, widowed Texas daddy (Bill Paxton, making his feature directing debut) who loves his two sons so much that he shatters their childhood: A nighttime vision — of an angel? A devil? A manifestation of insanity? — compels him to enlist his boys in the business of destroying demons by hacking folks and burying them. Against all odds in heaven and hell, it creeped me out just fine.

As one of the now-grown sons (Matthew McConaughey, enjoying sweat and scruffiness) narrates a complicated pattern of flashbacks to a skeptical FBI agent (Powers Boothe, happily hamming it up), Paxton the actor gently embraces the role of serial killer. Paxton the director, meanwhile, exults in the obviousness of the genre. Frailty veers toward X-Files-style heat-and-serve weirdness, then veers somewhere else. It’s clunky and indie-size — yet far sturdier than its title suggests.

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