I had heard so much about The Aggression Scale as a "Home Alone for the horror set", I couldn't wait to see for myself if the rumors were true. Also, a friendly acquaintance of mine, Derek Mears, plays one of the baddies, so I was doubly psyched. And, I have to admit… it was pretty dang good! Sometimes having expectations means they'll be dashed, but in this case, the movie, with its simple home-invasion premise and modest aspirations to merely entertain on a low-budget, delivers.
The "Home Alone" replacement kid is played by Ryan Hartwig, who is a quiet and cunning wily little badass, not even close to Culkin cute. The boy is not really alone, though… along for the razor-sharp ride is Fabianne Therese who plays the new sister in this just-acquainted step-family. The mom and dad, siblings, have just moved into their new casa, only to be mistaken by goons from the local mob as robbers. Twin Peaks alums Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook join Mears for the fray, and pretty soon all hell break loose within the walls of the unsafe haven. Unsafe for the criminals, that is…
While The Aggression Scale is definitely more home-invasion thriller than horror or torture-porn, and isn't comparable to, say, Darren Lynn Bousman's Mother's Day, it's plenty gory and violent. The movie starts off formulaic enough, with crime boss Bellavance (Wise) discovering that $500,000 of his money is missing. He unleashes four hardcore hit men to "send a message" to the suspected thieves’ families, but they are no match for 10-year-old Owen, whose knowledge of making booby traps, weapons, and sadistic snares makes MacGuyver look like a Neanderthal.
Ending in enough blood to fuel the Red Cross from the next decade, The Aggression Scale tips toward satisfaction for fright fans, and should work for those in search of a solid, if standard, suspenser as well. It's not to the level of well-regarded home invasion indies, as, say, Red White & Blue, but I liked it overall. It's worth one look, for sure.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson