Wednesday, May 14, 2008
After I heard so much buzz about Frontière(s) (aka Frontier(s)), I was eager to check it out. After the recent French filmmaking triumphs of Haute Tension, Them (Ils) and Inside, it seemed destined that Frontière(s) would be another notch in French horror cinema’s belt. Despite the high praise that Frontière(s) has been receiving, I found it a disappointment. It lacks the ingenuity of past French films. Behind the fountains of blood and gore (enough of an endorsement on its own to get some of you to see it) cowers an unbelievable and “been there, done that” story.
With massive riots rocking Paris, a group of friends are on the lam after a robbery. Farid (Chems Dahmani) and Tom (David Saracino) head out of town and into the countryside, while pregnant Yasmine (Karina Testa) and baby daddy Alex (Aurélien Wiik) take Yas’ brother Sami (Adel Bencherif) to the ER after he suffers a gunshot wound. When Sami dies moments later and the cops are hot on their trail, Yas and Alex high-tail it out of town to meet up with Farid and Tom, who are holed up at a hostel deep in the countryside. What they don’t know is that the hostel and the nearby farm are run by a mad old man and his neo-Nazi family. When they discover that Yas is pregnant, their nefarious plans for “pure blood” are focused on her unborn child.
Frontière(s), written and directed by Xavier Gens, uses convenient plot twists and contrived situations that require quite a suspension of belief. Not to mention that we’ve all seen the “crazy cannibalistic family in the countryside” before. Frontière(s) doesn’t really add anything new to this delightful subgenre, which is just fine if you want the comfort of the familiar. If you are looking for something to knock your socks off, though, I’m afraid Frontière(s) won’t do the trick.
The contrived plot turns are probably what annoyed me most about this film. The way things unfold seem awfully convenient…that, or the characters really are dumber than a bag full of rocks. For example, when Yasmine has multiple chances to escape and run far, far away, she always manages to muck it up and get herself caught again. Also, in a brutal scene involving a table saw, the way things unfold (man turns on table saw, man walks away from table saw, man is pushed backward, falls on still-running table saw) seemed too much like a set-up. The scene felt forced, unnatural, unbelievable and in no way surprising. There were ample scenes like this that just made me roll my eyes. Another example would be the anti-climatic use of guns throughout the film, especially in the shoot ‘em up finale. Sure, people get their brains blown out aplenty, but this method of killing just seems too easy and dull for a horror movie.
On the positive end of the spectrum, the film offers plenty of grue – most of which ends up plastered all over one particular character by the end of the film. If you are looking to satiate your blood thirst, Frontière(s) will definitely help you quench it. There are also several nifty death scenes (the saw scene does look cool, even if it feels contrived, and there’s a sadistic steam death sequence that’s pretty gruesome) along with plenty of violence.
The acting is also quite good, with all the actors giving great performances. The backwoods family, featuring three grown daughters, three sons and the evil Nazi Vater (that’s “father” for all you non-German speaking folk), was pretty brutal but intriguing. You just couldn’t wait to see what they would do next. The group of friends caught in the middle each had their own personalities and each character was adequately developed, something that most horror movies woefully forget to do. Karina Testa as Yasmine was the most effective, going from distraught to confused to determined to enraged in a steadily building crescendo of emotions and vengeance.
Still, no amount of good acting or bloody gore could make me fully enjoy this film. There was too much of an incomplete storyline, too many convenient plot developments and too many loose ends the film fails to tie up. Even the beginning of the film, which featured footage of riots, didn’t have any bearing on the rest of the story and the Nazi family’s intentions for “pure blood” weren’t quite explained adequately.
Though I found Frontière(s) to be seriously lacking, I would still recommend it over the heinous American remakes currently being churned out. There is plenty of blood and grue to entertain gorehounds, just don’t expect a cohesive or original story.
Buy it on Amazon!