Frontier(s) (2007)
By: Julian on July 7, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Lionsgate (USA), Region 1, NTSC. 2:35:1 (16:9 enhanced). French DD 5.1, French DD 2.0. English subtitles. 108 minutes
The Movie
Director: Xavier Gens
Starring: Karina Testa, Aurèlien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes, David Saracino
Screenplay: Xavier Gens
Country: France
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In December 2007, I read an article in Italy's premier horror magazine Nocturno. My Italian isn't that sharp, but the gist of the piece was that France was rapidly becoming the horror cinema hub with some of its subversive entries into the genre, the most recent and punchy of these being Frontière(s). While Xavier Gens' picture, a Gallic riff on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, isn't the best in the extreme French horror cycle (that distinction could certainly be given to Inside), Frontière(s) is still terrific fun, and proof that the Red-White-and-Blue can amply satiate the appetites of horror fans the world over.

Titled 'Frontier(s)' for this DVD release, Frontière(s) opens in the streets of Paris where political rioting is in full swing after extreme right-wing candidate Jean-Marie le Pen is given an upset advantage in the presidential elections. In this setting, a quintet of young Parisians led by Yasmine (Testa) and her ex-boyfriend Alex (Wiik) stage a daring heist that goes wrong, leaving Yasmine's brother shot and killed. The remaining four thieves rendezvous and decide to continue with their plans to make a break for the Dutch border, and they split up.

Farid and Tom are the first to leave their Parisian headquarters and they stop at a hostel near their destination. We're given a taste of Hostel as the two young blokes down their whiskeys and have sex with Klaudia and Gilberte, two of the girls who run the place. The duo are then invited to dinner downstairs with the two girls, their gargantuan brother Goetz (Samuel le Bihan) and their invalid mother. It's the latter's eating habits and Gilberte's sudden frigidness that forces Farid and Tom to storm out and they're later confronted in their room by Karl (Ligardes), another brother. Karl goes psychotic as he punishes the two thieves for their insolence.

As Karl deals with the commotion in the upstairs rooms, Yasmine and Alex arrive at the hostel and are confronted by Klaudia, Gilberte and Goetz. However, it's when the family's patriarch appears (he's referred to simply as 'Father') that their true intentions become clear – the family is part of a 'Fourth Reich', a band of demented neo-Nazis sieving through hapless travellers to create a master race.

For the gorehounds, look no further. This is an exceptionally violent piece of work, its various sucker punches aided by a slick, colourful aesthetic. It's for this reason that some have accused Frontière(s) of 'MTV editing', characteristic to American exercises in hackery, as editor Carlo Rizzo employs a few dizzying (read: nauseating) techniques presumably for the purpose of keeping the audience forever in a jolt. It doesn't work and only acts to the detriment of the film, though thankfully Rizzo reins things in before it all becomes too pervasive.

On face value, Frontière(s) appears to be an imitation of Hooper's 1974 classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film that has been pivotal in inspiring young genre filmmakers. Indeed, the general plot line is there – young people escape suburbia for the country and fall into the torturous hands of an unhinged backwoods family. However, there's enough here to make the concept fresh, particularly the Nazi element, which some critics have perceived as Gens' indictment of the emerging extreme right wing politics in France.

There's no doubting Frontière(s) competence as a horror film. Gens directs very well, his script is brilliantly paced and the shocks are all appropriately timed so as to not be predictable or repetitive. As for whether Gens' debut is an intelligent political tome, the jury's out on that one – it could just as easily have been an afterthought to legitimise what Internet bloggers have been calling 'The French Chain Saw Massacre', and rightfully so  - Frontière(s) owes a considerable amount to Hooper's film in concept and execution. However, credit where it's due - Frontière(s) is a thrilling, grisly exercise in suspense and consolidates the notion that France is where horror is happening in the noughties.
Frontière(s) has been presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement and looks sensational. Laurent Barès lensed the picture and among his other credits are Gens' flashy second feature Hitman and, more importantly, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's Inside. Barès' work here is excellent, and the dark, broody scenes that contrast with bright, flashy bloodshed are similar to Inside.
Two French audio tracks in 5.1 and 2.0. They're both as to be expected and obviously the film is best viewed in 5.1. There's no English track, but I'm an original language man anyway so full points here.
Extra Features
Trailers for other Lionsgate releases. Hopefully Frontière(s) will be endowed with a bells-and-whistles release as this gains momentum on the home video circuit.
The Verdict
If not original, Frontière(s) is at least three things – vastly entertaining, a showcase of Gens' undeniable directorial talent and confirmation of France's stranglehold on the genre. For these reasons alone, it comes wholeheartedly recommended from me.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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