Frailty--Expect spoilers


If you haven’t seen Frailty, stop reading and go see it now.

Now for the discussion questions.

  1. Is this a K-Pax or a Memento? In other words, is it deliberately ambiguous so as to equally support widely different interpretations of the events (as in K-Pax), or is it a complex narrative that only seems at first to support multiple interpretations, but has one correct solution (as in Memento)?

  2. Are Dad and Adam merely insane, or are they, as they claim, being guided by some otherworldly power? (skip to no. 4 if the answer is “insane”.

  3. If the answer to no. 2 is otherwoldly guidance, is the entity guiding them good or evil?

  4. Who is the God’s Hand Killer? Adam claims that Fenton killed those victims to draw attention to Adam’s crimes. Is this accurate, or did Adam actually kill these people as bait to draw out the FBI agent so as to kill him?

  5. Did Fenton commit suicide, or did Adam kill him?

I’m going to give my answers, but I want to see what other people think, so I’ll save my reasoning for later.

  1. Memento: there is one correct interpretation.
  2. Otherworldly guidance.
  3. Evil
  4. Adam
  5. Adam killed him.

Just saw Frailty and wish I hadn’t. Not that it was a bad movie, just that after The Cell I promised myself that I wouldn’t go see any more movies that could give me nightmares.

Kicking self. Also, avoiding sleep by puttering around at the SDMB.

  1. Would’ve said only one interpretation, but since we clearly differ, I guess it’s two or one of us is wrong.

2.Other worldly power-what else explains the correctness of his belief about the FBI guy’s mother and the fuzzing of the surveillance tape? I assume he was right about the FBI guy because the guy just collapsed–sort of a physical confession?

3.Good (I think) If his vision of the FBI guy’s crimes was correct than can we assume his vision of the other folk’s crimes were correct? They were thereore eliminating “demonic” people.

4.Fenton, but I thought he killed the people because he, not surprisingly, became sick and twisted as a result of the unfortunate events of his childhood. I suppose if the guiding power was good you could make the argument that Fenton should’ve been given visions like Dad and Adam so he wouldn’t be upset by the demon killing

5.Adam destroyed him because he was/became a “demon”

Do they train FBI agents to go to dark scary places alone with creepy people? They did that all the time in the X-Files too.

My interpretation, along with explanations:

  1. I think there is one correct answer for reasons listed below.

  2. Otherwoldly guidance. Evidence:

a. The visions that Dad and Adam get are accompanied by names of real people. This could mean that they are hallucinating names and finding them in phone books and assuming that these were the demons intended, so this is hardly conclusive.

b. The blurred videotapes that correctly, as Adam predicts, protect him. More convincing than a, but not quite conclusive.

c. An FBI agent, a man trained to notice details and remember faces, cannot describe a man he met, shook hands with, and whose face he saw up close hours before, and doesn’t recognize him the next day.

  1. This one is tricky, and also the key to unraveling the story. There is no way of knowing if the visions dad and Adam are sent are true or not, based solely on the visions themselves. A good entity would be sending true visions of evil people (demons) to be destroyed, while an evil entity would be sending false visions of innocent people to be killed. I believe we are dealing with the latter.


a. Let’s assume that the visions were either all true or all false. If dad has been given even a single false message from the angel, we can reasonably deduce that all were false messages. I don’t accept that the FBI agent’s reaction confirms Adam’s vision as true; it could mean any number of things. However we do know of one innocent who was identified as a demon, but who was not. The Angel visits Dad and tells him that Fenton is a demon that must be destroyed. Fenton’s “evil” deed is telling the Sheriff the truth about his father. Going to the sheriff shows courage and honesty. Thus, what dad percieves as evil (because the angel told him it is) is actually characterized by two good traits. If dad is seeing goodness as evil, this is evidence that the visions are false.

b. The angel tells dad that it will send him a list of seven names of demons in disguise. Adam’s list later on also contains seven names. Fenton isn’t on dad’s list, yet is later identified as a demon to be destroyed. Adam later tells the FBI agent that he couldn’t destroy Adam until God put him on the list. Thus, Fenton doesn’t follow the 7 demons on a list pattern that is used for all of the others. If he is a person who is getting in the way of an evil entity, it would make sense for the evil one to change its rules to destroy this obstacle. However, if he is a demon opposing god’s will, there is no reason for him not to have been on the original list.

c. If Fenton was a demon when he was 12, Adam would have no reason to wait 20 years to destroy him, but if Fenton wasn’t a demon until his thirties, then Dad’s vision about Fenton being a demon was wrong. Thus, if dad and Adam were truly destroying demons, Fenton was a person until he went to the sheriff, then a demon dad was supposed to destroy, then a person for the next twenty years, then became a demon again. If dad and Adam were killing innocents at the biddance of an evil entity, then Fenton was a person the entity tried to destroy when Fenton was a threat, then did destroy twenty years later when he again became a threat.

d. Thou shalt not bear false witness: Dad and Adam frequently and casually lie about what they’ve seen, who they are, and what they’ve done. People who They’ve been visited by an “angel” who has given them instructions and whose bidding they are doing. And we all know which angel is the prince of lies.

e. There are seven victims of the God’s Hand killer. Adam tells the FBI guy he is to be the seventh, which he does. However, when we see that final list planted in Fenton’s home, the last first five names are written in blue ballpoint pen, but the last two in black felt marker, including the FBI guy. The seven names are given to dad all at once, we can assume that this is the standard procedure. However, the God’s Hand list has the final two names altered, meaning that the FBI agent wasn’t originally on the list, but was added to complete Adam’s cover-up. If the FBI guy wasn’t on the original list, then he must have been added when he became a potential threat by being assigned and investigating the God’s hand killings.

f. Thou shalt not steal: Dad steals the axe and gloves he uses from the barn.

g. Thou shalt not kill: The angel, as dad puts it, is giving him a list of demons. But when dad puts his hands on one of his victims, what he sees isn’t a vision of a demon, he sees a vision of a person committing an evil act (In the case of the waitress, we don’t even know for sure that killing the man was an act of evil.) An evil person, no matter how evil and deserving of punishment, is still nonetheless a person. And we know from both dad and Adam that a demon is unequivically not a person, so it cannot be the case that when they say demon, what they mean is “evil person.”

  1. I think Adam is the God’s Hand killer because, once again, someone is disposing of a list of seven people, and the seven people on this list have been identified as demons by someone who claims to be representing God. We know that Fenton was opposed to the killing up to the very end of the flashback, and have seen no evidence that he ever changed his mind. We know that Adam regularly kills people identified as demons by an Angel only he can see. Why the notes? There are a lot of graves in the rose garden. The God’s Hand killings provide a convenient explanation and scapegoat (Fenton) should they ever be discovered, which seems inevitable. In any case, we know that virtually everything Adam tells the FBI guy about Fenton’s death is a lie, so I am assuming consistency here which would mean that Adam’s lying about the identity of the God’s hand killer. Also, it makes no sense for Fenton to kill people to bring attention to Adam’s killing; he could simply have gone to the FBI himself.

  2. I think Adam killed Fenton when he believed Fenton had become a demon again and needed to be destroyed. Everything else Adam says about the night Fenton died is a lie, so I deduce that the suicide story is also.

My interpretation of the events is that some otherwoldly evil entity claiming to be an angel and a messenger of god visited dad and gave him his “holy” mission. Dad and Adam truly believe that they are doing God’s work and are fighting in the final battle, but have been decieved by an evil influence masking itself as good. Fenton’s disbelief in the messenger protected him, so the evil force had to use first dad, then Adam to destroy him. The FBI agent investigating the case was a threat to Adam’s work, and so was added to the list at the last moment. The God’s Hand killings and notes were set up to explain the graves in the rose garden should they ever be discovered, with the Adult Fenton being set up as the killer to provide a scapegoat.

You have done an excellent job analyzing this movie, Number Six, and I salute you. However, I have some questions about some of your points:

  1. If it is God supplying Dad and the others with the “magic weapons”, then technically woudl it be stealing? And if they are doing God’s work, would wouldn’t he bend the lesser commandments for them, such as bearing false witness? If someone has seen an angel but the angel tells them not to tell anyone, wouldn’t they follow that order?

  2. Simply because the “demons” looked human doesn’t mean they really couldn’t BE demons. I don’t believe it was stated that they would look diffirent when Dad touched them, only that they would be able to see the truth.

  3. Didn’t Dad say Adam would get his own list when he was old enough? Why couldn’t the list we see at the end be Adam’s and not Dads? Isn’t it possible that Adam finished Dad’s list and got his own, one that included Fenton and the FBI guy?

  4. Who did all the graves belong to? It seemed that there were more than 7 there. Maybe there were a lot of lists and the FBI guy and Fenton were just on the latest ones. Though that does bring up your question about why Fenton popped up on it before.

  5. What else could the FBI agent’s reaction mean? SOMETHING momentous had to have happened there to incapacitiate him; he just went limp after Adam touched him. Was it the Vulcan Nerve Pinch? :slight_smile:

  6. This isn’t really a critique of your argument, but a question of the plot itself: why DIDN’T Fenton go to the FBI? And what was in the ambulance? I’m assuming Fenton’s body, but what if the FBI guy had just opened the ambulance and looked inside? Would Adam have killed him then? Was Fenton’s body there?

Also, weren’t there supposed to be 3 magic weapons? Perhaps I misheard…

Again, good work

It’s late, so I’ll come back and address the other post later, but yes, there were three holy weapons: the axe, the gloves, and the pipe.

Excellent post Number Six!

I know that Fenton and Adam were sent to an orphanage, which means that outsiders discovered the father’s killing, but was there any mention made of Fenton getting into any trouble for murdering his dad? He would have had to explain why he killed his dad with an ax, which would have led to the discovery of the bodies in the rose garden, yet none of that came up when the FBI agent did a background search. Did I miss something?

This is a very good movie.

Yes, you missed the part where Adam told the FBI guy that a week after killing Dad they went to the sherriff and told him Dad hadn’t come home one day. Dad became a missing person file and no one ever knew what became of him. The boys were sent to orphanages because there was no one to care for them.
Now that I think about it, I don’t think there were too many orphanages left by the 70s. Why wouldn’t the movie just state they went into the foster care system?

I guess not too many people visited the Rose Garden. You’d think someone would’ve noticed a whole bunch of graves after a while.

By the way, what was the name of their town? I thought I heard and saw (on the sherriff’s window) “Meat”. That can’t be right.

Yup, it can. :slight_smile: It also said so on another official looking building. Forget what it was, exactly, but it had those decorative pillars that are all the rage on buildings paid for by tax dollars.

As for nobody visiting the Rose Garden, I figure it was God’s special little burial ground. If nothing else, you figure that it would have a groundskeeper, but if there was, he was either blind and/or in the service of God. (God, as we all know, demands much digging from his servants.)

By “his reaction” do you mean the physical collapse, or the horror-stricken look and his gasping “how did you know?” 'Cause call me naive, but I don’t get the impression that the latter was referring to his overdue library books.

IIRC, the angel told Dad that Fenton was a demon long before Fenton went to the sheriff. The line wasn’t that explicit, again IIRC, but it was obvious that the implication was that the angel said Fenton was a demon, but Dad didn’t want to accept it.

As far as having to wait to kill demons, it may be that God himself is limited to not executing them until their evil has manifested itself, on the off chance that the demons, in classic Buffy style, aren’t necessarily a danger to the community (regardless of how much Dad may have thought so). One can also consider this a “would you kill Hitler as a child” situation.

I believe Adam’s explaination was that Fenton killed people in order to gain Adam’s attention, not the Feddies. Which doesn’t make it true, but still…

This is, if I’m reading it right, assuming that the GHK’s list is a list handed down from God. If it is Fenton’s list, and Fenton is the GHK, then there’s no reason that he couldn’t have been killing people more or less at random and then jotting their names down after the fact. Does anybody know if the second to last name was Fenton’s? If not, the list probably a) wasn’t Adam’s and b) not sent from God.

Personally, I could see Fenton finally snapping and killing those people. I suspect that his guilt or innocence is going to be revealed by whatever it was that he was typing when Adam walked in on him, and that this, in turn, will only be revealed on the DVD. Clever folks, those Hollywood marketing people.

Just my two cents.

Thanks! I guess I was still in shock from the killing. Not Dad’s, but Adam finishing off the guy on the ground.

I wondered about that area of the Rose Garden, and why it was never discovered, too. The surrounding vegetation must have been toxic to dogs, kids, shortcutters, young couples looking for a secluded place to neck and groundskeepers. :smiley:

Boy, am I glad I stumbled into this thread. I just saw this movie last night, and my friend and I were debating it long into the night.

My impression (without the expert analysis of you guys) was that what seemed to be a case of religious fervor causing someone to kill was in actuality a mission from God. I thought that Dad had gone crazy, and his son was infested, too. Similar to in The Seventh Sign, where the person is to be executed for killing his parents in the name of God, becoming the Last Martyr. But Frailty’s ending made me think that maybe Adam and Dad were right, and God really did have a mission for them. The angel told Dad that Fenton was a demon. Fenton kills his father, thereby proving the angel right. Dad believes that God will blind people who may otherwise witness the taking of the old man (or anyone else), and it happens. The videotape distorts so that no one can see Adam’s face. The agent who was there when Doyle comes in can’t remember what Adam looked like. Seems to me that God protected His warriors.

Who was the God’s Hand Killer?
The God’s Hand Killer was Adam. He killed because like his father, he believed God had chosen him to destroy “demons”.

Did Fenton commit suicide, or did Adam kill him?
Adam killed Fenton, because Fenton’s name appeared on his demons list.

Was Fenton a demon?
If he was, he was by virtue of not cooperating with his father’s plans. The first time Fenton talks to his brother about not cooperating with their father and running away, Adam tells their father about it. That night, the dad has the vision of the angel telling him Fenton is a demon. This causes him to wake Fenton and tell him about it, and how they’d prove the angel wrong. So if Fenton was indeed a demon, he was one before he went and got the sheriff killed, and well before he killed people as an adult (if Adam’s claims are true).

I lean towards Fenton not being a demon, as he hadn’t done anything sinful on the same scale as the others allegedly had. It wasn’t specifically said that all the demons’ sins were horrific, but if you were a demon by simply not honoring thy father, then there were gonna be a lot of seven-name lists, lemme tellya.

Did Fenton kill anybody (other than his father)?
We don’t know for sure if Fenton actually killed anyone. In the end, when the Fibbies go to what we have to assume is Fenton’s house, he has the rather incriminating collection of news clippings, photos, and the list of names on his bulletin board. But we never find out for sure if he is a “demon destroyer” like Adam. We have the collection of clippings, and we have Adam telling Doyle that Fenton killed people and hid their bodies in the cellar. But I’m skeptical because 1) Adam is not the most trustworthy character, and 2) I doubt that a child who chose to kill his own father over killing an innocent* person grow up to be a killer himself.

(*-- So Fenton believed, and that’s really all that matters.)

Did Dad and Adam receive those instructions from God or some other supernatural being, or were they both just crazy?
I tend to shy away from explanations involving religion, so I’m going to say that Dad was delusional, and Adam was highly impressionable.

Was there any supernatural element in this movie at all?
On one hand, perhaps yes. It explains the FBI surveillance tape and the visions Dad and Adam had (not to mention the fact that they could kill so frequently and sloppily and not get caught).

However, who says that Adam and his dad had the same visions? And who said those visions were accurate? And just because a guy has visions and ends up being unidentifiable on a FBI tape, it doesn’t mean that divine intervention took place in either case.

I disagree with this assessment of this scene. I think he did recognize him, but just wasn’t sure about it. And even if he did say something, he had no proof to back up his suspicions.

In the end, when he was being interviewed by other agents, the agent says he’d hadn’t gotten a good look at the guy’s face, that it’d been a blur. Instead of inattentiveness on his part, this implies supernatural intervention occurs again. Remember, though, that it was late evening when he saw him (10:25pm, I believe) and the office was dark. It’s not surprising he didn’t remember Adam’s face terribly well.
One other detail: The part about Fenton having stolen his brother’s body and the ambulance was made up by the blonde chick who worked with Adam. I assume the ending meant that she was his wife, and that she knew he was killing “demons”.

Well, would you go to the FBI if you were in his place? Keeping in mind that the first time you went to the Authorities, they not only not believed you, but the sheriff died, and you were locked in a cellar for weeks. That kinda thing can scar a person…

I don’t think anything was in the ambulance. I think Adam just used that as a cover.

I also don’t think that Fenton killed anybody. I think Adam did it all, despite his protests, and that Fenton was this close to going to the Feds. I think that’s what he was typing…maybe sending them an annonymous letter? I think Fenton had all the info because he was tracking his brother’s crimes. That’s what the list was. That’s why the last two names were added to the list with a different pen. Fenton couldn’t have any way of knowing that Adam would kill the agent, so Adam had to add the name to the list himself. Adam probably decided at some point to do away with his brother and the investigating agent. It neatly redirected the FBI’s attention and got rid of the man who worked on the case the most.

Is there a supernatural element? Yes…enough to be intriquing, but not enough to convince me completely that Adam (and his father) is not just crazy.

Sorry I’ve been away so long. Taxes.

As I said before, it could mean any number of things. It does seem to indicate that Boothe feels responsible for his mother’s death; it does not prove that the vision Adam had was accurate.

I remember it differently. He said, IIRC, something like he got a good look at the man, but now his face was a blur. I saw no hint of recognition in the agent when he meets Sheriff Adam at the end.

I agree, but I think it more likely than not that there was some form of supernatural intervention, but evin if this is so, it was in no way divine.

Other than that, I pretty much agree with AudreyK’s assessment.

Without going through my argument point by point, let me analyze things from a different perspective.

The visions are either supernatual in origin, or the hallucinations of a pair of homocidal sociopaths. In the second case, what we are seeing is a great many people being killed by fanatics who believe they are doing God’s work. If the people are in fact innocent, Dad and Adam are committing a great acts of evil, and assuming that the visions are hallucinations, we have no reason to believe any of the victims committed any crime.

Assume that they visions have been sent them by some entity. Regardless of whether the entity is good or evil, they believe that they are doing God’s work; this is the one constant–Dad and Adam believe they are doing God’s work. So how do we determine whether the entity that sent the visions is good or evil? We cannot trust the visions themselves; without other evidence, they could equally likely be messengers of God or or one of his adversaries claiming to carry God’s message; the Bible even warns that there will be a false prophet in the final battle. So, assuming that Dad and Adam are truly warriors in the final battle, how do we know whether the entity guiding them is good or evil in the guise of good?

Look at their actions from the outside: They kidnap and kill people they deem inhuman or less than human (by calling them demons), much the same as John Doe does in Se7en. They steal, lie, and hide their actions from the authorities, and are willing to kill innocents (the Sheriff) to cover their activities. They identify a person opposing their activities (Fenton), regardless of that person’s motive, as being a demon worthy of death–Fenton’s “crimes” for which he was condemned were threatening to tell the truth, telling the truth, and finally trying to expose the truth. I would have difficult time describing these actions as being worthy of death.

Dad and Adam are performing the same actions, with the same motive (they believe they are serving God). Same actions, same motive, regardless of the source of the visions. If these acts are motivated by hallucinations, they are evil. Even if we assume the visions were sent to them, neither the motive nor the actions change, so again the answer is that the actions are evil. If the actions are evil then any entity direncting them to perform these actions must therefore also be evil.

Well, he did kill his father. Which has two things going against it.

  1. IIRC, there’s a commandment that says to honor your parents. And by “honor” I don’t think they mean “kill.”

  2. His father was, if you believe it, a servant of God. Killing him must be akin to killing a cop, IMHO.

What Number Six said. He was confused because he got a good look at the guy, shook the guy’s hand (IIRC), but it was a blur the day after. And as far as the tape goes, I kinda assumed that the FBI had multiple cameras in the building and that they were all screwy where Adam was concerned. They might have said that even, but either way, it only stands to reason, right?

As far as the good/evil thing, I personally don’t think the movie gives enough evidence to support either hypothesis indisputably.

Correct on both points. But their father said an angel told him Fenton was a demon well before Fenton killed him. Like I said, Fenton’s only crime until that point was being unwilling to cooperate with his father.

As for the agent, I missed his line. Phooey.