I’ve watched a fair share of more recent French horror films; “Them” (not the one with ants), “High Tension” and “Inside”. My friend Dave79 really liked this film and of course, I have to see it for myself. I‘ve read that “Frontier(s)” was left out at the 2008's “After Dark Horror Fest” because of its very violent nature and its NC-17 rating; thankfully, LIONSGATE have released the unrated version to sit side by side with its other “Horrorfest” counterparts. Director Xavier Gens is at the helm of this film; while I’m not particularly very familiar with his work, save for the video-game inspired movie “Hitman”. If this film is once again ANY indication, the French movie scene may be really into “stunt gore shows”.
Rioting and civil unrest breaks out all over Paris after a right-wing government is elected. Amidst all the turmoil, a bank robbery goes awry for a group of a young gang of thieves including reluctant thief Yasmine (pretty Karina Testa), who is also 3 months pregnant (?). Her brother has been fatally wounded and the gang separated, so they agree to meet in an isolated hostel by the frontier. Once in the hostel, the group would fall victim one by one to its psychopathic owners. With this plot, horror lovers should figure out what would come next in the film.
First off, “Frontiers” is lacking a lot of originality. An obese butcher with a mother who seems moments away from death, an imbalanced young lady, a muscled psycho (played by Brotherhood of the Wolf’s Samuel Le Bihan), a psychopathic father who is also an ex-Nazi, an even psychopathic son/heir to a psycho family and loose women who seduce and flirt; oddball characters that have always been the cliché for a lot of films that have the seal of “torture porn”. The film offers nothing--absolutely nothing in terms of plot and originality; it borrows formulas from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Hostel“, “The Descent”, “The Hills have Eyes” and “Wrong Turn”. So just what does this film offer horror fans? A lot of blood, violence and GORE.
“Gore for the sake of gore” is actually scary when done right. This film is not a lost cause, since it does have a lot of visceral impact. “Frontiers” is a well-made film on a visual standpoint. While I do think there was one scene done in bad taste; the atmosphere, shaky camera work, quick edits and eerie close-ups do add a lot to exhibit the film’s violent nature. The film is genre film and the villains are too cardboard for my taste. If this was a video game, this film would be classified under “survival horror” and it does do it very well. It exhibits the fierce and unrelenting brutality with a lot of visual impact. The gore effects look rather realistic but still retains that somewhat “campy” look. This is a very positive comment, mind you.
Most of the characters are “wooden”, ex-boyfriend Alex (Aurelien Wilk), Tom (David Saracino) and shy Farid (Chems Dahmani) are the embodiment of true cliché, their fate would come as no surprise. However, Karina Testa was quite impressive with her performance as Yasmine, she portrays her character with convincing fervor that would make the viewer say: “OMG, she‘s in shock, on the verge of collapse“. Although, her survival skills may require a suspension of disbelief, aided by the usual movie fakery, all the villains have such bad aim when it comes to shooting the heroine. Yasmine dodges automatic gunfire, a shotgun and a pistol from a very close distance. This oversight greatly stretches the film’s credibility and realism. I am also somewhat disappointed that the “dwellers of the old mine” weren’t thoroughly explored. Seemed like they were just there to exhibit some creepiness.
Overall, “Frontier” is a blood-soaked affair that is solid in execution, decently acted (man, you’ll be disturbed by the creepy father) and saved by the performance of its heroine. Of course, she had to resort to animal ferocity which is both shocking and sympathetic at the same time. There is a lot of sequences of sheer cruelty and the film definitely knew where it wanted to go, at least the reasons behind it all is NOT without viability, but the reason themselves are VERY FAMILIAR. It may not be the goriest film you’ll ever see, but it is grisly, gruesome, atmospheric and visceral that excels in the “torture for the sake of torture” style but unfortunately it just didn’t explore all its potential. This film is not for the faint of heart but I would be lying if the GORE-show didn't provide visceral entertainment.
Highly Recommended to Hardcore Horror fans and a Timid Recommendation for Everybody Else. [ 3 ½ Stars]
*** out of **** Horror directors are a peculiar breed. With "Frontier(s)", director Xavier Gens has taken the Paris riots and envisioned the cruel aftermath through heads exploding, tendons being cut, parts of the neck being bitten clean off, and terrible death by gas chamber. In a sense, Gens might just be blowing off a lot of steam with the amount of carnage that he chooses to show; but at the same time, there's a greater craft at work underneath all the horrible acts committed … more