Steven C. Miller seems to be on a mission to mash up the family films of his youth with the wince-inducing violence of the horrors and thrillers of that era – the 1980s. Earlier this week we posted a review of Miller’s Frightfest movie Under The Bed, which we described as a ‘mix of Amblin-esque horror and bloody monster movie’. The Aggression Scale meanwhile is Home Alone meets Rambo. (And Miller’s a busy boy, as he’s also made Silent Night this year, which continues his love of the 80s as it’s a remake of Silent Night Deadly Night).
Bellavance (Ray Wise) is a crook who’s going to be sent to jail unless he can get $500,000 of his bent cash back so he can skip the country. However the money has been stolen by a former associate. He sends four armed and very dangerous heavies off to get the money. Meanwhile a new family is attempting to find fresh happiness by moving into a house together, with moody teenage daughter Lauren less than impressed that she’s suddenly supposed to look out for mute younger stepbrother Owen. However the move is soon interrupted by the heavies, who kill Lauren’s mum and are convinced Owen’s dad knows where the half million is.
The bad guys start searching for the kids, but Owen in particular has no desire to be caught, booby trapping the house and making far more trouble than the crooks expected. Can he and Lauren survive and where is the $500,000?
Miller seems to be of the belief that modern movies simply aren’t violent enough and so he’s here to sort that out, harking back to the splattered skulls, spraying blood, artery bursting stabbings and general claret-soaked nastiness of a world before every movie wanted a PG-13 rating (and even R-rated action & horror became comparatively wussy). The result is a perhaps unexpected mix of teen action flick and extremely violent thriller, which will excite some while repulsing others. Miller knows what he’s doing with violence, producing several moments that produce the sort of visceral shock that lovers of this sort of thing will revel in. However it will inevitably turn others off, who’ll find the razors through palms and knives to the head rather gross, especially with kids involved.
For those who don’t mind the bloodiness, it’s a full throttle ride that never lets up throughout its 80 minutes running time. The plot is sometimes a bit obvious and connect the dots, but that’s not really a big problem with this sort of film. The Aggression Scale is nothing spectacular but it gets the job done in an entertaining enough fashion. It won’t be a film you’ll remember for weeks after you watch it, but it hits the mark while it’s on the screen.
Overall Verdict: The Aggression Scale is a tonic for those who like plenty of violence in their movies, but may prove a bit much for those just looking for an action thriller that doesn’t make them wince.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac