By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Directed by Xavier Gens
Cast: Karina Testa
It’s no secret that I have always been a fan of the great cultural contributions made by the French. From their ticklers, fries, toast and kisses to the ménage à trois, the French have always known how to up the ante in an otherwise dull world. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to horror films, the French just can’t help but put their own special twist on the genre. If you don’t believe me, I suggest taking a minute to seek out films like Irreversible, Haute Tension and Ils for a crash course in modern French horror. (And for those feeling a little old school, you can never go wrong with Eyes Without a Face or Man Bites Dog.)
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Frontier(s), the latest offering from our gore-loving, snail-munching friends from across the sea. Packaged as the “unreleased” entry in the 8 Films to Die For horror film festival, Frontier(s) brings together all of the elements that make a truly great horror movie—a great story, gut-twisting gore, realistic violence and biting social commentary—and serves ’em up in heaping helpings of survivalist horror. What’s that, you say? The 8 Films to Die For are notoriously hit or miss, and most of them wind up being garbage? Well, dear reader, I’m afraid you are right. Nobody is going to argue that the 8 Films to Die For are pure horror gold. Fortunately, this year's batch has a couple of good offerings worth watching (Mulberry Street, for instance) and Frontier(s) is so freaking incredible it doesn’t deserve the stigma of being included in the collection.
The story follows a small group of young French radicals who just committed a robbery and are fleeing the police in two separate vehicles. Set during the violent aftermath of a right-wing driven political election, the thieves make their escape thanks to the chaos caused by riots and street demonstrations and beat a hasty retreat to the countryside. While waiting to regroup, the thieves seek shelter in a small hotel—run by inbred cannibal Nazis! What happens next isn't pleasant. The film is fast-paced, gritty and offers a clear view of what lays in store for any society that allows itself to fall victim to right-wing ideology. What really makes this flick move is the outstanding performance given by the foxy French femme fatale Karina Testa as Yasmine, a young woman hell-bent on survival by any means necessary. Add the fact that she's three months pregnant, and you've got yourself one hell of a nail-biter.
I've heard a lot of people make comparisons to Eli Roth’s Hostel when talking about Frontier(s), but I have to disagree. Sure, they’re both films in the survivalist horror genre, and both films have an ultra-violent atmosphere, but that’s where the similarities end. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves: Hostel sucked pretty bad. The only thing interesting about the Hostel movies was seeing how the main characters were going to die—you never actually rooted for them to get out of the situation alive. Not so with Frontier(s), a film that makes you give a shit about the characters by crafting a good story for them to exist within. This is real horror, dirty and raw; not the generic pabulum being forced down our throats by Hollywood in the form of lame-ass PG-13 remakes.
Lionsgate really missed the freaking boat by not including any special features on the DVD. All we get are the standard widescreen presentation and optional English subtitles. The cover art is awesome, but that’s about it as far as the DVD goes. Way to screw the fans, Lionsgate. I was hoping for a director’s commentary, making of, some deleted scenes, etc., but got none of this. Luckily for Lionsgate, the film is good enough on its own to warrant a DVD purchase.
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A filmmaking workshop with San Francisco film artist Kerry Laitala. Part of the Experiments in Cinema v10.T36 Film Festival.
Albuquerque Science Fiction Society Program at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
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