A Polaroid! Cinematically, that’s a nice touch; realistically, it’s cost-prohibitive. Besides, now that the company has stopped making the instant film, it’s increasingly difficult to find. Paid assassins, take note: It’s never too late to embrace the technological wonder of Instagram.
That’s all beside the point. In this Scale, out-on-bail crime lord Bellavance (Ray Wise, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie) gives Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook, Wise’s former Twin Peaks castmate), the Polaroid hit man under his employ, two things:
1. a kill list of everyone who stole a cent from him, and
2. 48 hours to mark off everyone who’s on it.
Lloyd and his cronies — including Derek Mears (Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th remake) — off a lawyer, then head for the new home of a newly blended family to demand the cash. As if moving day isn’t stressful enough! Without giving anything away, I’ll say that the mixed fam’s youngest child, Owen (newcomer Ryan Hartwig), isn’t quite the autistic mess we think him to be.
The Aggression Scale reminded me strongly of three other movies:
1. the thriller While She Was Out, in which Kim Basinger turns the tables on her attackers, with the help of Home Depot shopping spree;
2. indie horror sleeper The Collector, in which a masked home invader rigs his prey’s home with various deadly traps; and
3. a little comedy called Home Alone, but stripped of slapstick, and for reasons that will become painfully obvious.
I’d chalk all those references in the plus column, because director Steven C. Miller uses them to his advantage. He’s improved greatly since last year’s Scream of the Banshee, so much so that The Aggression Scale has the potential to be one of 2012’s better under-the-radar efforts, with appeal to fans of thrillers, horror and even action. There’s a little too much setup with the family moving in, but scoring the proceedings with metal riffs works wonders in upping viewer tension. —Rod Lott