Aggression Scale, The (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Even as a child, I found the Home Alone movies to be inherently disturbing. Sure, those movies (the first two, anyway) are meant to be light, heartwarming comedies infused with the kind of slapstick that wouldn’t be out of place in a Three Stooges short. Still, the notion of a child being abandoned by his parents and forced to defend himself against a couple of home invaders is…well, that’s a creepy idea. Some two decades after those films played theatres, somebody has finally taken that core idea and run with it in an entirely different, certainly non-comedic way.
The Aggression Scale opens with mob boss Bellavance (Ray Wise – great here, of course) being released from prison, only to find that he’s been robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a secret account only a few people would have known about. He gathers up a group of lackeys (including Dana Ashbrook and Derek Mears, both very good), then sets them loose on an unsuspecting list of people. The thugs proceed to brutally murder anyone who may know anything about the missing money.
Elsewhere, a newly-formed family of four arrives at their new home in the country. They include Bill; his troubled son, Owen (a creepy yet sympathetic Ryan Hartwig); Bill’s new wife, Maggie; and Maggie’s teenage daughter, Lauren. A good deal of time is spent getting to know this family before the inevitable: Bellavance’s men come knocking, and soon after Owen and Lauren are left to defend themselves against four trained assassins. However, Owen is far from a normal child, and before the end of the film the thugs will find that they’ve more than met their match with this incredibly resourceful (and possibly psychotic) preteen.
With its mostly solid cast, strong script, and good direction, The Aggression Scale is one of the more enjoyable films that I’ve seen this year. It starts off with a bang (literally) and rarely lets up with its tension, even in its more quiet scenes. One might be hard-pressed to place it within a single genre, but that’s part of the movie’s charm. It’s a crime film one minute, family drama the next, home invasion/horror flick just after that. It’s a fun ride, and one any lover of dark cinema should be willing to take.
The film is not without its flaws, however. Some early setpieces are poorly staged, a few characters make some surprisingly dumb choices, and, worst of all, Fabian Therese’s Lauren is switched from an interesting lead to a gibbering idiot for the bulk of the film’s second act. Still, these niggles aside, The Aggression Scale makes for worthwhile viewing.
Anchor Bay again presents us with a lackluster package for a decent film. While I have no quibbles with the image and sound (both of which are great), I have to yet again bitch and moan about the lack of special features. We get a rather dull making-of featurette that runs about fifteen minutes, and that’s it. Was there nothing else to be mined here, A.B.? No commentary to be recorded, no deleted footage to be unearthed, no trailer to include? Nada? While I typically adore Anchor Bay’s selection of films and their commitment to the genre, I’m saddened at their recent, half-hearted attempts at putting together bonus features for their new releases. Tell me, Dreadfuls, am I the only one complaining about this?
All that aside, my hat’s off to them for choosing interesting genre films to release, and The Aggression Scale is one of their better recent offerings. While I can’t necessarily call it a must-buy, I would suggest that anyone with an interest in dark, pulpy horror/crime hybrids should give this one a shot. It’s well worth a look.
3 out of 5
1 out of 5