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Borderline pretentious, borderline boring exploitation of violence and cult practices.

  • Dec 24, 2011
*1/2 out of ****

"Borderland" is the kind of horror film that most genre fans will right up. One minute, it's an easy-going dramedy about three friends chasing beaver, and in another; it's a violent, loud, unnecessary thrill-ride limited to screams of bloody murder and torture chambers. One cannot help but be reminded of "Hostel"; which also contained most of what "Borderland" does, although with much more gratuitous amounts of blood and boobs. There was nothing particularly wrong with that film; just that, in my honest opinion, there was nothing really right about it either, save for some aspects that worked in spite of my general aversion to graphic violence and gore.

If only this film worked in the same ways. It's about a trio of young men (played by Brian Presley, Jake Muxworthy, and Rider Strong; respectively) who decide to make a trip to Mexico for one reason only: the strip clubs, thus, the women. Each one of them gets lucky, more or less, and they have a pretty good first night during their stay. Little do they know, however, that there are more sinister forces at work.

Zev Berman, the writer and director of the film, makes one crucial mistake early on: he opens "Borderland" with a scene that reveals the horror behind this story. In this case, the horror comes in the form of a sacrificial cult somewhere in Mexico. The opening reveals not only their existence, but also that the law cannot interfere with their practices; adding a problem to what was assumed to be one of the many advantages of making the trip to Mexico in the first place, which was the lack of law enforcement itself.

The boys take hallucinogenic drugs, wake up in the morning, and discover that one of them is not there. We know where he went; but they're (almost) clueless. In an attempt to make these stupid kids look smart, Berman has them thinking right off the bat about a possible kidnapping, because stereotyping all Mexicans to be violent capers is just, I don't know, easier?

Eventually, they're all kidnapped and brought to the cult; one of the members being a guy named Randall (played by Sean Astin), who initially seems like a decent guy, but develops into no more than another cult member lacking in his sanity or his humanity. Astin plays the role unevenly; I just couldn't take him seriously as a villain character, especially having seen him in the "Lord of the Rings" films, where he is so much better.

The film consistently attempts to blend philosophy on religion with gory special effects; and for some, it's a formula that will work. A lot of horror fans seem to appreciate this one; they would even go as far as to call it "crafty". Me, I think it's vile, mindless, and uninteresting. It tries to be an intellectual's horror movie, but it fails so miserably; sometimes to the point where it's an almost unbearable example of failure. Does it have good cinematography and promising direction? Yeah, sure it does. But as a storyteller, Berman displays little talent or creativity, and most of the time, he relies shock value through the bloodshed, which is ironically never too shocking to begin with. He could have made this idea really work if he possessed the proper tools to execute a horror movie the way that true genre aficionados would prefer; but instead of nail-biting suspense or edge-of-your-seat thrills, Berman would rather show people getting their heads and hair cut off, which will either get old or under your skin; take your pick.

The film was distributed by the boys (and girls) who run the After Dark Horror Fest. This one was released through their "8 Films to Die For" label; in the year of 2007. Let me just say that, in the case of the film, after dark certainly isn't late enough for me.

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More Borderland reviews
review by . November 10, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
There's a moment in "Borderland" when a Mexican cop points a shotgun at the leader of a cult. I don't remember what the cop said, but I do remember that it reminded me of Mandy Patinkin in "The Princess Bride": "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." No, this is not the desired effect of "Borderland," and that only makes me question my feelings for it. Here's a film that gets more and more ugly with every passing scene; what starts out as an interesting story ends …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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