I have always been a fan of horror stories, primarily those of a particular genre. I am drawn to ghosts, creepy children, unexplained activities and hysterical heroines. I don’t need to see people tortured and beheaded. A slow ascension up a dark, winding staircase in a sprawling mansion is more my style.
Fragile has all of the earmarks of a great ghost story. A nervous, slightly unhinged heroine. A seemingly ancient isolated hospital with no telephones. A rainstorm. Adorable and frightened British orphan children. Calista Flockhart does an admirable job as the newly transferred Nurse Amy, showing even less stability than on Allie McBeale. It is the perfect character to unravel a mystery and yet not have anyone believe her. Pay no mind to the fact that her predecessor suddenly abandoned her post, and when tracked down, had died soon after leaving.
Everyone at the hospital holds a fragment of the puzzle and keeps it to themselves until the pieces are all put into place by Amy. The supporting actors do a lovely job of wavering between conspiracy and denial. It is perfectly normal to have an entire floor of the hospital sealed off, and to attribute constant banging to the pipes, right? ‘Tis only the wind.
As with any good horror story, the moment you see the monster or the ghost, the suspense is ruined. From that point on, Fragile takes a turn for the outlandish as it reaches its crescendo. But in the end, it returns to touching eeriness.
Besides the fantastic locations and lighting, the soundtrack harkens back to an earlier era, with high angelic voices, sweeping violins and childlike vibraphone. In spite of its B movie status and sidestep into melodrama, Fragile holds its own in its genre.