The Film: The Aggression Scale (2012)
The Principles: Steven C. Miller (Director). Ryan Hartwig, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Fabianne Therese, Ray Wise
The Premise: A perfect companion piece to Zombie’s Halloween, except told more as a thriller than a horror film.
Is It Good: This was an unexpected treat. Not much thought to it and not very original, but a thoroughly fun presentation. Before I praise it too much, I must admit it took awhile to get started, and the disconnected violence at the beginning wasn’t very gripping as there was no connection to the characters. Other than the possibly disjointed opening, when we get to the main story, it flows very well until the end.
The main story is about a mob kingpin (Ray Wise) looking for a large sum of money that someone stole from him. He doesn’t have much time as he is out on bail and planning on escaping to a country without extradition. He sends one of his mob captains (Ashbrook) and 3 goons (including genre baddie Derek Mears without a costume) to not only find his money but to leave a message that nobody messes with him.
The “good” family is played by the realistically annoying snobbish teenage girl (Therese), her troubled stepbrother, and his dad and her mom. The boy, Ryan Hartwig could easily be playing an extension of the Michael Myers from Rob Zombie’s Halloween. He doesn’t talk for unknown reasons and easily conveys that even though he is consistently creepy, there is something much darker that is kept at bay only by the bond he shares with his father.
The fact the child is mute might deter some people, or lessen the opinion of the actor, but I thought he did great. His empty eyes and lack of expression reminded me of more than a few children of friends that appear apathetic when taken away from their comfort zone. When we find out the core of his problems, it all fits with the way he has played it.
As a slasher fan and even more a Friday the 13th fan (I grew up in front of a Camp Crystal Lake), I loved Derek Mears in this. I enjoyed the vitality he brought to Vorhees in the 2009 remake (and thought he was one of the best things from the Hills Have Eyes sequel). Ray Wise was strong but comedic as the mob boss in the short time that he graced screen. These two were the reason I watched the film, and neither of them disappointed. I am very glad they captured my interest, as if not for the camp factor that they might have evoked I would not have given this film a chance.
Steven C. Miller is currently filming the remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night. Not being a huge fan of the original (loved the concept but not the execution), I now have a renewed interest to watch it other than the nostalgia of the cast. He kept the attention, staged everything close enough to maintain tension and kept the viewer on their toes.
Is It Worth A Look: Yes. The film switches tones a few times, but at it’s root it is a thriller and not truly horror. It crosses the lines into First Blood territory and Die Hard, but never tries to be those films. It works because it always returns to a mentally unbalanced Home Alone.
The violence was brutal other than the quick executions at the beginning. You never have a feeling that both children are safe, and there are a few moments that may have pushed the MPAA acceptable level of violence against children. The climax, while it may be a bit rushed, definitely rewards you for sticking through until the end.
The 85 minute run time flies by with the majority of main story taking place after the first 25 minutes. The framing didn’t do anything spectacular, but it also did what it was supposed to do. Many newer directors have a hard time establishing and maintaining urgency during extended chases, but Miller managed the tone and tempo as well as many tenured veterans.
Most of the characters are named after players for the Leeds United Football team of the 70s.
Bremner Street and Reaney’s Diner (other Leeds players) are mentioned in the script.
Steven C. Miller is also in talks to direct a remake of Motel Hell.
Cinematic Soulmates: Home Alone, Halloween, First Blood