Review: The Aggression Scale / Cert: 18 / Director: Steven C. Miller / Screenplay: Ben Powell / Starring: Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Jacob Reynolds / Release Date: September 3rd
The trouble with release patterns these days is that quite often really good B (or C) movies bypass the cinema altogether and make their debut on the DVD format and get ignored because of the complete lack of a cinema release. In the current climate it’s hard to imagine a film like Near Dark or the early work of John Carpenter ever finding an audience and being relegated to premiering on DVD. This is the case with Steven C. Miller’s film The Aggression Scale which is a brilliant ride of a film that you simply must see.
Described as an ultra-violent Home Alone, it’s hard to argue with the description. The plot opens with hitman Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) going around cleaning up after his boss Bellavance’s (Ray Wise) accounts after he ends up in prison. When Bellavance gets out he demands that all those who stole money from him are taken care of, so Lloyd and his crew get to the killing and zero in on their final targets, a family out in the countryside consisting of recently married Bill and Maggie and their kids Lauren (Fabianne Therese) and Owen (Ryan Hartwig). Lloyd and his crew are in for a shock however as Owen has just been released against doctor’s wishes from a mental hospital and has inventive and brutal ways of defending his family.
The first thing that hits you about this film is how confident it is, right from the first frame when Lloyd kills a man in front of a couple of children and the score kicks in, you are completely sold on what you are about to watch and completely put in the right frame of mind. The film is perhaps not as gory as hardcore horror hounds would like and is more of an action thriller but it thrills in all the right ways with some great pacing and action beats. Anybody looking for the gritty, realistic reboot of the Home Alone franchise now has the film they were looking for. The cartoon violence of those films has now gone in favour of a serious tone when you are never in any doubt that you are watching the actions of a very disturbed individual no matter how many tacks and nails the bad guys step on.
Miller doesn’t linger on the violence but doesn’t hold back either, limbs are snapped and heads are blown into chunks but Miller knows when to demonstrate something for impact and when to cut away. In other hands, this would have been an exercise in lurid shock value but Miller and Ben Powell’s smart, efficient script does everything it needs to and is a twist-filled and entertaining ride with brilliant central performances from Ryan Hartwig and Dana Ashbrook.
The one complaint I have about this film is that it’s too short, I could have done with another fifteen or so minutes to flesh out either of the two central characters, although sometimes some mystery is a good thing. I would love to see this become some kind of franchise, it’s by far the best in the recent glut of home invasion themed thrillers and deserves your attention.
Special Features: None