A jogger runs through the sleepy suburbs of her neighborhood and upon returning from her morning run, she is blasted through the gut as she opens her front door. Why? What did she do? Who was she?
This is repeated in several bite sized vignettes, as other victims are disposed of with a matter of fact approach, the way a plumber might punch the clock for his coffee break. Now that you’ve been properly desensitized to the violence, queue the opening credits.
In a flashback we meet the local mob boss Mr. Bellavance (Ray Wise), who’s on a two day bail from his murder trial, and is looking to flee the country with his son. A good plan, except his money seems to have disappeared while he was in the slammer.
The Aggression Scale: (noun) A psychological test measuring the frequency of overt and aggressive behaviors that may result in physical or psychological injury to others.
Out of desperation, Mr. Bellavance puts his best lieutenant, Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) on the scent to retrieve his money and end anyone one that has taken a “single bent penny” from him. As a motivational technique, Bellavance gives Lloyd his watch and tells him he has 48 hours to get the money and take over running the gang or be the guy who’s next to get a piece of paper with his name written on it, if you catch the meaning. Bellavance also wants proof and Lloyd’s extremely motivated for the task.
All goes accordingly, until our friendly “kill squad” arrives at another harmless house in the middle of nowhere. Complete with a family of four; the mother Maggie who bakes, the dad who’s trying to keep his family together, the sassy teenage daughter Lauren and the misunderstood quiet and introverted little brother.
Clearly, the kill squad is no match for this family unit.
Seizing another opportunity, director/editor Steven C. Miller lovingly crafted the opening titles to set the tone and pace for his movie, hearkening us back to the glory days of film when Roger Avery took a similar approach with his Killing Zoe opener. An opportunity most films seldom make use of.
Miller makes use of his time, packing each composed shot with visually striking imagery. Blending suspense and violence with blood and mischief in a visually melodic symphony. The film builds the suspense quite effectively as the layers begin to peal back. Though I’m not usually a fan of films putting children in violent situations, it does work in favor of this movie. And perhaps, that was the point to the opening kill spree.
This film knows that children are the revolution, and each generation consumes, disposes of and replaces the one before it.
It should also not go unnoticed that The Aggression Scale, which premiered at SXSW to packed audiences, brings Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook together again. You may recall their earlier collaboration with David Lynch’s cult TV series Twin Peaks.
This film knows that children are the revolution, and each generation consumes, disposes of and replaces the one before it. Simply put, The Aggression Scale is an awesome way to “kill” a Friday night on the couch.