Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DVD Review: Frontier(s) (2008)

Frontier(s) ***
Directed by:
Xavier Gens
Written By: Xavier Gens.
Starring: Katrina Testa (Yasmine), Aurélien Wiik (Alex), Patrick Ligardes (Karl), David Saracino (Tom), Maud Forget (Eva), Samuel Le Bihan (Goetz), Chems Dahmani (Farid), Amélie Daure (Klaudia), Estelle Lefébure (Gilberte), Adel Bencherif (Sami), Joël Lefrançois (Hans), Jean-Pierre Jorris (Father).

Frontier(s) is an extreme horror movie set in France, but obviously inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is about a group of young Muslims, fleeing from the riots in Paris, and crime they committed that scored them a lot of money, who stop at the wrong bed and breakfast. The family who runs the place is not a group of inbred hicks this time though – but rather a group of inbreds Nazis. It is explotation filmmaking at its finest.

Although, the young people in the movie are Muslims, they are not exactly devout. Yasmine is pregnant with Alex’s baby, and has decided that she wants to get an abortion. They two are arguing, and it gets altogether worse when Yasmine’s brother is shot in the riots, and dies in the hospital. The four surviving members of the group split up, and decide to meet out in the country to lie low for a while.

When the first two arrive at the bed and breakfast, things seem to be odd right from the start. They are greeted by two beautiful women, who seem over eager to please them in anyway they see fit. They go upstairs, have some fun, then come back down for a rather disturbing family meal. It’s when they start to wonder off that things get bad. They are attacked, mulilated, and strung up just like the pigs on the farm that the family also runs. If they think Goetz, the muscle bound skinhead is scary, that’s only because they have not met Father yet, an ex-Nazi yet. Things go from bad to worse when Yasmine finally gets there. Father has determined that even though she is not “pure”, that she will still make a fine wife for his favorite son – someone who can carry on the bloodline. They have already tried this with another son, and his demented wife, who like Yasmine was kidnapped long ago and forced to give birth to one abhorration after another. She stays because she doesn’t know what else to do – and because she loves her children.

The movie gets bloody – very bloody – as one person after another is killed in increasingly brutal fashion. You know what is essentially going to happen. At first, the Nazis will have the upper hand, as they dispatch Yasmine’s friend, but eventually, she will fight back, and start winning some battles. By the end of the movie, she is soaked head to toe in blood, because of all the killing she has had to do.

The film works as well as it does for several reasons. For one, it never devolves into just another torture porn exercise as it surely would have done had the bed and breakfast been run by Eli Roth. There are clear motivations behind each act of violence, each bloody killing. Writer/director Xavier Gens is obviously exploring the rather troubling swing to the right in France in recent years, pitting his Muslim teens against the Fascist Nazis, and if this maybe a little too obvious, it is also creepily effective. The performances in the movie are also terrific. Jean-Pierre Jorris, spewing racist venom as Father is one of the more vile characters I have come across in a movie recently. Maud Forget plays Eva, the other kidnap victim, as a kind of wacked out child that is truly spooky. And finally Katrina Testa makes a believable, real “survivor” girl.

Where the movie ends up is pretty much preordained from the beginning, and along the way, we are treated to plenty clichés, and a number of death scenes that have been done before. But the movie passes my basic test for a horror movie, that I have already repeated a lot in my reviews. It makes you wonder just what you would do in that same situation. It gets under your skin and stays there.

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