Frayed (Norbert Caoili and Rob Portmann, 2007)
I tend to be a little obsessive about movie-watching when I get going. In the period from September 4 through September 6, I watched a total of ten films, ranging from the horrific to the pretty-darned-good. Of the lot, Frayed was my favorite (by a bare nose over Hanna. Sure, there's not much new under the sun here, and you'll probably see the two Big Reveals at the end coming a mile away (though the movie's final shot, which comes just after Big Reveal #2, is an even nastier twist of the knife than was the true ending of The Descent, so depressing it was excised from the American theatrical release...), but here's something I don't often say: this formula has been done a lot recently, and Frayed does it as well as anyone else has, and better than a lot of higher-profile flicks that cover much the same territory (I'm looking at you, Perkins' 14 and Basement Jack).
Plot: years ago, a policeman's son, Kurt (played as a child by Jimmy Castle in his first screen role and as an adult by Dino Moore, the movie's PA), a nasty, bullying little piece of work, was put away for the murder of his mother after he was sent to his room for bad behavior at his sister's birthday party. Now it's the present, his sister is in high school, his father (Life or Something Like It's Tony Doupe) is the Chief of Police, and everything goes to hell when Kurt escapes from the hospital. One of the hospital guards, Gary Jordan (We Need to Talk About Kevin's Aaron Blakely), is pursuing Kurt, who may be headed home to reprise his role with the new (well, new since he got sent up, anyway) stepmom Jolene (Highway's Kellee Bradley), or he may be after his sister Sara, now all grown up and gorgeous (Kabuki Mono's Alena Dashiell). Needless to say, they're on opposite sides of town, Gary's only one guy, and Chief Pat seems more concerned with covering up the escape than actually hunting his kid down...
Here's a hint: this is not a turn-your-brain-off slasher film. I've seen many, many message board comments and questions about things that make perfect sense as long as you paid enough attention to figure out the three key shots at the end that explain everything. But if you miss the significance of one or more of those three shots (without going into spoiler territory: the picture, the family in the kitchen, and the bedroom), you weren't following closely enough, which makes the impact of the final shot nonexistent (and without the impact of the final shot, this really kind of is a turn-your-brain-off slasher flick). They tell you everything, including the one thing I haven't seen a single person mention: what triggered the entire chain of events that movie's built on. That's extremely important, and no one says anything about it at all. (It's also THE spoiler for the film, so I'm not going to say what it is, but I'm going to let you know that it does exist, and it's contained in the film.)
One last thing: the opening sequence ends with the killing of Kurt's mother, a scene that is quite brutal (it has been compared to the similar opening-sequence-ending murder in Gaspar Noe's Irreversible). While the rest of the film never even comes close to that level of brutality (nor its special effects budget), those with weak stomachs might want to stay away, or fast-forward about two minutes when the action cuts from the birthday party to Sara's bedroom. I've seen more than one comment from people who turned the movie off at that point. *** ¬ 1/2