Written and Directed by Xavier Gens, 2007
Perfect timing for me to appear hypocritical over two superficially similar French flicks. I lauded the shallow film INSIDE despite being a gore show with nary a story to tell and I am now going to proceed to, um, non-laud FRONTIER(S) for being a gore show with nary a story to tell. There is an ever sliding difference between the two. While neither have much in regards to narrative, at least of the two INSIDE had the comparably original premise; a woman trying desperately to steal another woman’s in utero baby. FRONTIER(S) on the other hand has no original premise. It is about teens in the countryside who encounter the French equivalent of the TEXAS CHAINSAW family.
Correction. It is about showing teens tortured in as much filth as possible by inbred French Nazi revivalists who are also cannibals.
This leads me to an obvious observation. Why put the (s) in the title? If the title is a reference to a final or new frontier of horror, why leave it open for expansion? Or, is it rather that the title is in reference to all of the frontiers previously defined by the many films from which Xavier Gens’ pillaging is blatant? I submit that it should be, but fear that it is not.
What little plot there is can be recounted as such; some dumb teens fuck up a robbery during the recent French riots and flee into the country. One of them is a pregnant gal, the other three men are all interchangeable. They splinter into two groups, the first of which arrive at a disgusting hostel and proceed to have sex with its disgusting female hosts. And then the family values bubble up and the torture/fleeing begins. The remaining unharmed two arrive and are taken to another property still owned by the family. More torture/fleeing ensues.
FRONTIER(S) was much hyped in the ’07 festival seasons. Word of its epic violence echoed around the internet, compounded by After Dark Films’ inability to include the movie in their 2007 Horrorfest due to an MPAA NC-17 smack. When ADF finally got around to releasing it sans edits, it was confined to a very select few theaters around the US and an almost immediate DVD release. The problem with holding off on releasing a film is that the hype builds and if the delivery doesn’t match it, the backlash is going to echo farther into the canals of time than the hype ever did. Such is the case with Gans’ Gens’ film.
Not that it isn’t gory. It is. The film’s heroine is down right lathered in the blood of many men and women by end. She spends the last several minutes of the film covered in the stuff and vibrating around in a traumatic state that is comically similar to the worshiping found in the excellent (and even scarier) documentary JESUS CAMP. Only with real blood, not wine. The gore, however shiny it is, isn’t anything new though. Again, looping to my confusion over the film’s title. If you’re going to make a torture film whose levels of brutality are supposed to be a new frontier, you should probably make damn sure that they are. Like perhaps having a seemingly brain dead man with blood gushed eyes raging a baseball bat into a pregnant woman’s bulging stomach. Oh wait, wrong French movie.
There is nothing of particular freshness. The content and context of our horrors are both as thin as crepes and yet not nearly as delicious nor satisfying as those diaphanous pancakes of the Gods. The final hurrah in the film is frenetic and edges right on up to previously established borders of taste and design. It goes so close to border pushing that you can finally surrender to the film, kick back and soak in the red with a grin, but it still doesn’t quite go the extra mile to just slap you up and down.
I suppose FRONTIER(S) wouldn’t be so offensive (not in the way it intends) to the growing up generation of horror fans, the kind who have yet to see all this before. And yet even that supposition has its own flaws, because the movies that pulled this stuff off 25+ years ago are the same flicks that Hollywood has been remaking for years now. Adding injury to insult is the fact that FRONTIER(S) has little variance from the Marcus Nispel popularized color scheme of the overwrought TCM remake.
All the same, things should be put in context outside of the film. France is currently experiencing a new wave of horror and FRONTIER(S) is right on the crest of it. So, for the local population, they probably are quite proud of their genre champion(s). However, put it in an international contest of gore shovelers and Xavier Gans Gens’ fades into the din of all too similar, all too generic exhibitions on how to slam hooks through teenagers. Shown to people who have an intimate familiarity with the material and I’m frankly surprised it got all the hype it did.
Chalk it up to the infectious energy of any festival. The desire to see something new and different. All it takes is a few vocal proponents and it is easy to get caught up in that desire. Unfortunately, unless you live in France and only watch domestic cinema, FRONTIER(S) is neither new nor different enough to live up to the hype or even its own title. If you love a bloody mess no matter if the mess extends behind the camera, you’ll love it.