Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Paris Neo-Nazi Massacre: Frontier(s) (2007)

Frontier(s) (France, 2007) (AKA "Frontière(s)")
Rating: ****
Starring: Karina Testa, Aurélien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes 

In the midst of one of France's presidential elections wherein a far-right candidate gets considered for position, a street gang of French-Arab youths takes advantage of the resulting riots to pull a robbery, scoring some cash they needed to escape Paris. The plan, however, ends up with them splitting for a bit after engaging the police in a gun fight, with one group consisting of Yasmine and her ex, Alex, looking for a hospital to treat Yasmine's severely wounded brother Sami, while the other two, friends Tom and Farid, drive to the countryside to look for a hideout where the rest can catch up.

Their predicament worsens when Sami dies moments after getting past hospital doors, forcing Yasmine to leave her him behind as security's made aware of their possible involvement with the riots. All the while, Tom and Farid decided to stop by a family-run inn near the border for a small break, only to somehow anger the clan when the innkeepers felt disrespected by the boys after a fairly disturbing dinner.

From that point, it all escalates to torturous and deadly turns as not only is the family revealed to be deranged and hinted to be cannibalistic, but they're also living remnants of the Third Reich, Neo-Nazis desperate to keep the bloodline of their "supreme race" alive. As the youngsters fall victim to their murderous madness one by one, Yasmine alone will find herself in a situation much worse than death and she will have no choice but to fight back or die trying.

Heavily borrowing elements from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and mixing it up with the violent taste of the New French Extremity movement, Xavier Gens' Frontier(s) is a bleak stroll down classic Hicksploitation horror that starts and ends in pure chaos. It's nothing relatively complex plot-wise as we follow yet another group of troubled friends ending up in unfamiliar grounds at a "middle-of-nowhere" countryside, to be horribly tortured and killed by what first looks like an angry family of rural folks, but the driving force that makes this movie a bit more extra is its unexpectedly wild turns tackling other exploitation tropes, leading to Grindhouse-gritty Nazisploitation, claustrophobic monster horror with secret tunnels being prowled by animalistic mutant children and Hostel-level of nihilistic torture and gore that get more grueling the further we go. 

It's a mixed bag of horror trappings that works well enough, though the multitudes of terrible on-goings definitely needs a tad more expanding around the conventions it introduced rather than mildly hinting it, such as the animosity and favoritism between the "family" members of the Neo-Nazi clan that broods a good deal of tension throughout the movie. There's also the matter that Frontier(s) wallows in its own bleakness a lot more than it needed to at times, which may turn off some viewers who isn't in it for complete doom and gloom as the film's flow pushes the ante of despair and torment to levels that bear little to no light to balance it out .

Then again, from what it offers, the film is made purely for exploitation fun and enjoyment, delivering on that front in full force with its sleek and grungy look, working on grainy-tint lenses, cinematography that's focused on everything in decay from buildings to flesh, and a breezy fast pace to keep the carnage going as much as possible. On that note, the gore scenes -the very highlight of this movie- are brutal in the rawest definition of the word, especially towards the finale in which Frontier(s) pulls a "reverse-slasher" on us. From Achilles heels crushed and cut with long pliers to a bisection by table saw, it's all a gorehound's treat for the amount of practical effects and fake blood used for these kills, with little to no CG assist done to keep it as old school as traditional filming and visual effects can get.

The cookie-cutter characters are played with good enough talent to bring them to life on screen, but their lack of depth may mean difficulty to empathize with them throughout their ordeal save, perhaps, Yasmine; leading actress Karina Testa done a fantastic job in her role as our definite final girl, a vulnerable protagonist at first, soon forced to fight back and feel the wrath of the clan after her character's subjected to watch her friends and former lover die. Her struggles to keep alive and escape in the later act infuses raw emotion and terror so perfectly, one might find themselves holding their breath back until the last shot of the film for how intense it all got.

Frontier(s) may be lacking a developed story or more fleshed out characters from both ends of the coin, it does have a story that sticks with you for a good while after all that manic cluster of blood, guts and torture. If you're looking for a carnal French horror flick that offers the basic exploits of people being tortured and slaughtered in all manners possible then try this for your liking. It could be your hidden gem!

1 male dies from gunshot wound
1 male brained, throat cut with a knife
1 male cooked inside a sauna, shot with a shotgun
1 male shot on the head
1 elderly male shot with a shotgun
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male repeatedly hacked with an axe, eviscerated in half with a buzzsaw
1 male had his head blown in half with a shotgun
1 female caught on a gas explosion, seen dying from a shrapnel to the neck
1 female had her neck bitten open, bled to death
Total: 10

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