Lionsgate // 2007 // 108 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // May 16th, 2008
"Hang them up! And skin the fat off of them."
Originally planned to be one of the "8 Films To Die For" at Horrorfest 2007, Xavier Gens' Frontier(s) found itself ineligible due to the MPAA giving the film the dreaded NC-17 rating. Now released on DVD, Frontier(s) is finally given its place on the After Dark Horrorfest bill, in its full, uncut glory.
With Paris falling into chaos, as a far right group appear to be taking power, a young woman, named Yasmine, seeks an escape from the city that is tearing itself apart. Desperate to escape, Yasmine seeks help from her ex-boyfriend, Alex, a criminal on the run with his gang, following a heist gone wrong.
Finding refuge in a small inn, the group settle in for the night, completely unaware of the terror they are to face; for the inn is home to a family of neo-Nazi cannibals, who have no intention of letting their new customers leave in one piece.
Fans of gore-soaked horror movies are likely to have frequent occurrences of déjà vu while watching Frontier(s), a film that appears to cherry pick the favourite moments from writer/director Xavier Gens' DVD collection, in an attempt to produce the ultimate experience in gruelling horror.
Combining the gleefully psychotic family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with the severity of Eli Roth's Hostel, and a sly nod to The Descent, Frontier(s) isn't shy about making its inspirations known. From a twisted family dinner scene, hooks through feet and a claustrophobia-inducing sequence that is straight out of Neil Marshall's potholing horror masterpiece, Gens' film plays like the recent Family Guy episode "Blue Harvest," with Gens putting his own spin on his favourite sequences from horrors' past and present.
And yet, to assume Frontier(s) is merely a mishmash of classic horror movies, albeit with the gore ramped up, would be missing out on one of the films more unique points, albeit one that, as mentioned later in the review, is sadly never fully exploited. A skilfully executed title sequence informs us of the riots that have swept through Paris, following an extreme rightwing candidate winning an election. With scenes of mass hysteria, which continue into the opening scenes of the movie proper, we are thrown straight into a nightmare meaning, no matter what events befall the characters whose journey we will be following, we are made only too aware that there is to be no happy ending here; survival only meaning another harsh reality will take over.
Gens continues to set an oppressive tone throughout the rest of the movie and, though never offering anything particularly new, there is certainly talent on display here. Gens frequently displays an acute awareness of how to creep out his audience; a scene in almost total darkness, seen through the lens of a video camera is particularly impressive. Never giving a full reveal of what it is we can see coming towards us, Gens allows our imaginations to fill in the gaps in the fractured images. When the time comes for all hell to break loose and the gore to take centre stage, Gens, ably supported by some excellent effects work, produces scenes that will delight fans of splatter, though, unlike gore fests such as Evil Dead 2, Frontier(s) is totally lacking a sense of humour, everything is done with a straight face and proves to be all the more effective for it.
A suitably gritty look ensures Frontier(s), at least in visual terms, matches the movies that inspired it. Detail throughout is good, while the picture remains sharp and offers excellent black levels. Though more solid than spectacular, the soundtrack has no real flaws with the occasional standout moment, helping to enhance the atmosphere.
Thanks to a complete lack of special features on the disc, Lionsgate earn themselves a big, fat zero in that department.
Originality, it seems, isn't a word that appears in writer/director Xavier Gens' dictionary. For all that it gets right and as enjoyable as it is, there's no escaping the feeling that Frontier(s) is really just another clichéd survival horror, often too happy to merely rework the ideas of others rather than innovate. Like Them, the films storyline soon loses its way as the movie becomes an exercise in brutality, with the sole intention of merely outdoing what has gone before. And that's truly a shame, as Gens certainly knows how to craft an effective scene. That he ultimately resorts to what Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon called the "survivor girl," with one girl, who against all odds remains to take on the murderous scum who have killed her friends, reeks of laziness, meaning horror movie aficionados can see future plot developments coming way before they happen.
It's also a shame the film doesn't go further with its attempt at social commentary, the films opening giving a somewhat false impression of what is to come. Even with the villains being neo-Nazis, complete with dreams of their own New World Order, the ideas it throws up are never fully explored, much to the films loss; their twisted political ideals feeling like a mere afterthought, in an attempt to add some much needed depth.
Finally, though containing some of the finest splatter in years, the films final act often stutters: throwing in needless dialogue that sees the proceedings slow down to a crawl is almost unforgivable, but doesn't prove too damaging.
What it lacks in refinement, Frontier(s) makes up for with its refusal to back down and, though lacking the genius of Tobe Hooper's seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, provides a horror movie with more than just copious amounts of gore to offer. It's just a shame that there's the nagging feeling this could have offered so much more and, in part due to the fantastic opening sequence, it's easy to be left with a sense of disappointment when it fails to deliver all that it initially promised, resulting in a perfectly entertaining but shallow experience.
You get a guy being pushed onto a bansaw, while another gets his head blown clean off, all topped off by Nazi Cannibals. Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Official Site