Recently, I reviewed a film- “Under The Bed” directed by Stephen C. Miller. While I found some things problematic regarding the story, overall it was a great movie. While discussing “Under The Bed” with a friend, I was recommended another film by director Stephen C. Miller titled “The Aggression Scale”.
“The Aggression Scale” was released the same year as “Under The Bed” and in my opinion, the two movies are like night and day. Regardless of the fact that it’s the same director, and same year of release.
Well…maybe not as drastic as night and day. Dusk and Night? Dark, nonetheless.
An aggression scale “measures the frequency of self-reported overt aggressive behaviors that may result in physical or psychological injury to other students, for example, pushing, name-calling, hitting, and/or threatening.” Our teenage protagonist scores 99.5 out of a hundred on the scale.
The film starts out with a hit man, Lloyd, going down a list of people that may have stolen money from his boss. To no avail. His boss (Ray Wise, playing a mobster type – Mr. Bellavance) gives him an ultimatum: Find the money in 48 hours, or else. Mr. Bellavance is out on bail, and facing a murder charge, so he wants his money…now. He plans on skipping out on his bail, with his son. It’s apparent from the opening minutes of the film, that Lloyd doesn’t pull any punches. He is brutal, and a touch on the sociopathic side. The same goes for Mr. Bellavance, and his other goons.
On the other end of the story, you have a new couple moving into a new house with their son Owen, and daughter Lauren. I wont give away any plot regarding how they are all actually related, as I think it helps to build the suspense. You spend a good bit of time in the beginning “catching up” and figuring out whats going on. Owen is quiet and withdrawn, and you soon discover that he has a knack for being…well..he has a knack for being psychotic.
When you are a Grade-A Bad-ass like Lloyd and his cronies, the last thing you expect is for someone to fight back. But the absolute last people you expect to fight back…. are some kids. But then again, you couldn’t forsee one of those kids being just as sick and sociopathic as you are either, if you were Lloyd. Owen inst just fighting back, he’s having fun.
Owen loves this. It’s what he does, by nature.
“The Aggression Scale” seems to have flown under the radar, like so many movies. Which is a shame, because this is top-notch home invasion horror/suspense. The characters are all very believable, and the acting is fantastic (Even Ryan Hartwig, as Owen, who has zero spoken lines, yet steals the show). If anything, our crime boss, Bellavance, is the least believable.
The story is concise-well written and wasting zero time. When things get going, and get bloody, they are going 90 mph. Once the action kicks in, it doesn’t stop. I’m glad that I caught “Under The Bed” first, as this film seems to address all of the problems that I had with that film. From the beginning, you are engaged.
There are some very inventive attacks/kills going on here, and you cant help but scream “Hell Yeah!!” at your TV screen. My wife and I were yelling at the TV the whole time, praising our little sociopathic protagonist’s choices of defense, and offense. This is “Home Alone” on methamphetamine and steroids.
The soundtrack is also top-tier. The title sequence especially. The rest of the music is all there to build tension, and it does so very well. I’m a sucker for great scores that do what they are supposed to, and add to the experience (I’m a musician, sue me. I notice this kind of thing). In my opinion, a bad sound score can ruin your film. The sound effects are equally good, like the sound of a baseball bat hitting a face, the sound of a knee breaking…screaming in pain.
In closing, I think this is a must see for genre fans. There’s blood and gore, but also plenty of smart action. Once the tension starts, it just keeps going. This is a sleeper hit, that I think may be more popular once the word gets out. I was surprised that I have never even heard of it.
If this is any indication of what Stephen C. Miller is capable of, then we are in for a treat in the coming years. I can’t wait to see what happens when he hits his “stride”.