I don’t usually post reviews of films that aren’t out yet (this doesn’t get a UK DVD release until September) but I saw this at the Prince Charles Cinema in London yesterday as part of the FrightFest ‘sleepy queue’ fun and it was such an unexpected surprise that I felt it deserved highlighting. It’s a brutal home invasion crime thriller, with the twist in this case being that it’s the kids who take revenge. While it’s extremely violent, and takes itself seriously, it’s also very entertaining, in an ‘adult version of HOME ALONE’ kind of way.
Ray Wise is vicious gang boss Reg Bellavance, who is about to do a runner to evade the authorities. He’s stashed away a large amount of money for the occasion but it’s gone missing. There are a number of suspects, and rather than waste time he orders Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) and his gang of thugs to kill everyone on Bellavance’s suspect list until they find the money.
Boring Dad Bill (Boyd Kestner) has the missing cash and has used it to move his boring wife Maggie (Lisa Rotondi) out to the country with Maggie’s sexy petulant self-harming whingebag of a teenage daughter Lauren (Fabienne Therese) and Bill’s extra special twelve year old son Owen (Ryan Hartwig). What isn’t revealed until a bit later on in the film is that Owen has until recently been confined to a maximum security adult lockdown facility because he scores 99.5% on something called the Aggression Scale and is dangerously homicidal. In fact the only reason he’s been let out is because Dad has paid off the guards. When Lloyd and his gang come calling Owen suddenly turns into a one-boy death machine and each of the gang members ends up getting a lot more than they bargained for.
There’s a lot to like about AGGRESSION SCALE. The direction (by Stephen C Miller) is efficient without being flashy, and has exactly the style needed to tell this kind of story. The performances are all spot on, with kudos to Ashbrook and Wise for their distinctly villainous turns, and Therese and Hartwig as the kids who turn the tables. Kevin Riepl’s music score is one of the best I’ve heard in a low budget movie in a long time as well, ranging from pounding electric guitars to more subtle understated work but always with a strong sense of it being music rather than just sound effects.
I had absolutely no expectations about THE AGGRESSION SCALE and had assumed it was going to be another grimmer than grim thriller. It’s actually much better than that and is deserving of 85 minutes of anyone’s time. Stephen Miller’s new film UNDER THE BED is going to be at Frightfest this year and after this I’m really looking forward to seeing it.