Director Steven C. Miller is quickly becoming one of my favorite genre directors of late. Premiering with the solid zombie film “Automaton Transfusion,” his films seem to have a grit and guerilla style that often add a sense of urgency. His treatment of “Silent Night” skirted the edges of camp and slasher, while his latest “The Aggression Scale” is a definite step up. Though the film can sometimes show its low budget, director Miller makes great use of marvelous editing along with limited scenery to create an intense and absolutely excellent home invasion thriller.
What’s unique about this genre installment though is that with the introduction of a group of blood thirst mobsters, Miller also introduces a maniacal young boy who gives them a bloody response when they storm his house and begin victimizing his family. The great Ray Wise plays mob boss Bellavance, a man on the verge of skipping town who wants the money that was embezzled from his associates. Waging a campaign of bloodshed across the country, the group, led by aspiring mob boss Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) eventually find lawyer Bill Rutledge. Moving his new family across the country which include his stepdaughter, wife, and son Owen, they group hopes to start a new life. When Lloyd find Bill and his family and begin violently demanding the money, they discover their Bill’s quiet and meek son Owen is much more menacing than he seems.
Steven C. Miller manages to evoke many great performances from his cast and he offers many interesting characters who clash with one another in unusual moments of demented horror. Dana Ashbrook is slimy as Lloyd, who’d do anything to become a crime boss, and of course there’s the heart of the film Ryan Hartwig. Director Miller takes his time exploring the mind of Owen, who spends most of the film exploring his surroundings and adhering to his father’s pleas of taking his meds and assuring rewards of he does. Once the blood shed begins, Owen reveals a somewhat psychotic bent on him that makes the criminals’ jobs so much more difficult than they ever imagined. Many of the tactics and violent strike backs Owen inflicts on the thugs range from ingenious to downright disturbing, and incredibly genius.
Miller composes an action horror film that pits “Straw Dogs” against “Home Alone,” if Kevin were a potential serial killer, and the thieves murderers. “The Aggression Scale” is often such a creepy and intense film and Miller keeps the story at a speedy pace to where the tension is relentless and Owen’s own payback for the mobsters unforgiving. Especially when Derek Mears manages to become the subject of his insane booby traps. “The Aggression Scale” is a swift and brutally entertaining action horror film. One that signals director Steven C. Miller only has more surprises in store for horror fans. With a moderate budget, director Steven C. Miller impresses with an exciting, creepy, and brutally entertaining action horror film about comeuppance, and the misdeeds children are capable of. It’s a well casted, and remarkable genre gem.