Aggression Scale, The (Blu-ray / DVD)

The Aggression ScaleStarring Fabianne Therese, Ryan Hartwig, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Ray Wise

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.

Special Features:

  • Making of The Aggression Scale


    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 out of 5

    Discuss The Aggression Scale in the comments section below.

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    Slasher_Diva's picture

    I had no idea I was going to love this movie so much ,I mean I really love it.
    The story itself is great ,yes I read all the references about Home Alone and it's true, it's very Home Alone Meets Toy Soldiers but much much more brutal.
    For the synopsis you can read the one given. It's unnecessary reading in a review if it's already given.
    The characters of Owen and Lauren 'Ryan Hartwig'and 'Fabianne Therese' were so intriguing and their acting was amazing.
    They played perfectly off one another as newly not yet adapted step brother and step sister.
    I loved watching the chemistry between them and seeing how her trust in him grows and blossoms.
    Owen's genius and raw ability to inflict violence was in itself perfectly paced and brilliant to watch.
    The fact that the intruders walked into the house blind to the time bomb that is Owen let you know you were in for a great ride.It did not disappoint.Owen's methodical planning and execution of his traps and justice were like that of Home alone but done with the mind of a child that blows pins out of a straw to kill insects and hits the target dead on.
    The violence is plentiful,it's not extremely gory but it is very bloody and brutal.
    I watched it on demand and immediately bought the Blu Ray.
    The ending is one that I had to rewind 3 times so I could revisit it again and again.

    Submitted by Slasher_Diva on Sun, 06/10/2012 - 6:58pm.

    The lack of extras can be easily explained. It's unlikely that Anchor Bay wants to release bare bones discs but you have to consider the dramatic decrease in DVD/BD sales for anything that isn't a Hollywood blockbuster in the past 5 years. The Golden Age of DVD is long gone. Now it's all about VOD, streaming and downloads, legal and otherwise. Where you could sell 5000 to 10000 copies of any obscure genre flick you're now lucky if you sell 1000 copies and maybe break even. Small and independent distributors are going bankrupt left and right. So obviously in a situation like this you don't go and spend another couple grand on compiling extras. It's a pity but it will only get worse in the next few years until we reach a point where there simply won't be physical (i.e. DVD/BD) releases for films like THE AGGRESSION SCALE anymore.

    Submitted by Caterpillar on Sun, 06/10/2012 - 5:09am.
    moderator This is one of the few times
    Debi Moore's picture

    This is one of the few times we disagree, Jinx. I'd go at least 3-1/2, maybe even 4. I loved it! Especially seeing Dana Ashbrook after all these years (huge "Twin Peaks" fan here).

    Submitted by Debi Moore on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 7:43pm.
    Jinx's picture

    Don't get me wrong, WiB, I really dug the film. Great concept, great villains, and a mostly great cast. Ashbrook was great (Twin Peaks rules!), and Derek Mears! Who knew?! Great presence, and he delivers the best line in the film.

    Among the hiccups for me was the handling of the Lauren character. She started out as a strong, believable character who was reduced to a screaming woman-in-jeopardy cliche. Even dialing back on her audio in some scenes might have helped, as her constant crying and moaning tended to grate. Still, she came back strong in the final act, but by then it was almost too little, too late.

    Also problematic were some of the characters' choices. Why pound on a door, begging to be let in, before trying the handle first? Why break into a car dealership in order to steal a car to drive to safety when you could simply use the building's phone to dial 911? There are a good half dozen of those moments for me.

    Still, nitpicking aside, I like the film a lot. I hope this leads to more work for director Miller and Ashbrook, and more speaking roles for Mears. I only wish somebody had taken one last pass at the script before going into production.

    Submitted by Jinx on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 8:31pm.

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