31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #26: Frontier(s) (2007)

Posted: October 28, 2015 in Movie Review
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Frontier(s) (2007)

Director: Xavier Gens

Starring: Karina Testa, Samuel Le Bihan, Estelle Lefébure, Aurélien Wiik, David Saracino, Chems Dahmani, Maude Forget, Amélie Daure, Joël Lefrançois, Patrick Ligardes, Jean-Pierre Jorris

“Frontier(s)” is yet another one which I knew next to nothing about before seeing it for the first time. I only knew that it was part of the so-called New Wave of French Horror, of which I’m a huge fan. It doesn’t throw you into a dark pit of despair and bury you down there like “Martyrs” does, but “Frontier(s)” is still unflinching in its bloody brutality. Further illustrating the point is the fact that the film was branded with an NC-17 rating for its violent content.

As Paris erupts into a chaotic scene of mass riots following the election of an extreme right-wing president, five friends commit a robbery to procure the funds necessary to blow this popsicle stand. As we are introduced to them, the friends have split into two groups. Alex (Aurélien Wiik) and Yasmine (Karina Testa) take Yasmine’s brother Sami, who has been shot, to the hospital. Meanwhile, Tom (David Saracino) and Farid (Chems Dahmani) have the money, and drive up to an inn on the outskirts of town where they have sex with innkeepers Gilberte (Estelle Lefébure) and Klaudia (Amélie Daure).

Things do not go well at the hospital. Sami succumbs to his wounds, his dying wish that his pregnant sister rethink her desire to have an abortion. A member of the hospital staff tells a cop about Sami’s wounds, but Yasmine and Alex hightail it out of there before he can question them. Yasmine gets the address of the inn from Tom and Farid, who are attacked by Gilberte, Klaudia and Goetz (Samuel Le Bihan) shortly afterwards. Tom and Farid try to elude their assailants, but Goetz runs their car off a cliff. Alive but injured and scared, the two men take cover inside a mine shaft. Following a long, claustrophobic crawl through a cramped tunnel, Tom is recaptured, while Farid doubles back and tries to find somewhere else inside the mine to hide.

Yasmine and Alex, unaware of anything shady going on, finally arrive at the inn. Certain visual cues tell Yasmine that there’s something not quite right about this place or the people in it, but both are captured and chained up inside a pig pen before they can do much about it. Alex helps Yasmine to break her chains and attempt an escape which, when her absence is discovered, leads the family patriarch Von Geisler (Jean-Pierre Jorris) to make his presence felt, cutting Alex’s Achilles tendons as punishment. Farid finds Tom hanging by hooks inserted into his feet. Unsuccessful in rescuing his friend, Farid is himself hunted down and killed by Hans (Joël Lefrançois). Yasmine picked up on the road by Goetz and driven back, after which she witnesses Von Geisler shoot and kill Alex. Being a still-practicing Nazi, Von Geisler has a vision of a pure Master Race. He wishes for Yasmine to be “wed” to Karl (Patrick Ligardes), despite the fact that she has black hair and brown eyes.

After Yasmine’s pregnancy is discovered, she is placed under the care of Eva (Maud Forget), who tells Yasmine of their similar backgrounds. Eva also was captured by the Von Geisler family, and is obedient to them for two reasons: 1) She has been promised that her parents would one day return for her. I suspect the family secretly killed them, but the film never says so. 2) Eva has produced several children while in captivity. Together with Hans, she visits with them and cares for them when she can. She loves them, despite their being rejected and tucked away out of sight down in the mine, and will never leave them. With regret, Eva informs Yasmine that her long, dark hair must be cut off, at Von Geisler’s insistence. After performing her duties, Eva leads Yasmine downstairs. At dinner, it becomes clear that the only visionary among the family of Nazi cannibals is the old man. The rest are power hungry, gun-toting fools. When Von Geisler announces Karl as his intended heir, Yasmine takes advantage of the ensuing squabbling by putting a knife to the old man’s throat. A jealous Hans shoots and kills Von Geisler, after which Karl shoots and kills Hans.

Their leader/father dead, the family no longer feels obligated to keep Yasmine alive. She escapes the gunfire and heads into the mine. A struggle with Goetz ends with Goetz being impaled on a table saw. Yasmine is cornered on an elevator by Karl but, just as he is about to shoot Yasmine, Karl’s head is blown off by Eva. Before Yasmine can escape, Gilberte and Klaudia show up with automatic weapons. Taking Karl’s shotgun, Yasmine returns fire, eventually hitting a gas tank. The resulting explosion kills Klaudia, but Gilberte continues her attack. Yasmine responds by going full-on Rick Grimes on the bitch, tearing a chunk of her throat out with her teeth! Soaked in the blood of Goetz, Karl and Gilberte, Yasmine leaves while Eva remains to care for her children. Driving down the road, Yasmine is met by a police roadblock, upon which she gets out of her car and surrenders.

Apart from the film’s socio-political elements, there’s something familiar about “Frontier(s).” The most obvious connection to be made is to Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” despite there being no chainsaws or human skin mask-wearing monsters present. Eva’s offspring and their current residence, although we don’t see much of them, are reminiscent of Wes Craven’s “The People Under the Stairs.” There’s also perhaps just a little bit of Eli Roth’s “Hostel” sprinkled in for good measure. One of the things I love about France’s New Wave horror films are how the women do not exist in these movies for the sake of titillation. Whether their intentions are good are ill, there’s an intelligence and strength these characters display that makes their male counterparts seems like big dumb animals by comparison. Karina Testa’s Yasmine is a great example of this. Stripped of her natural beauty, what lies underneath is a strong woman who’s got to fight through a lot of mental torture to get out of this alive. Maud Forget is also great fun as Eva, whose motherly instincts allow her to hold on to a measure of her own sanity, even as she’s forced to do unspeakable things in service of the Von Geisler family.

“Frontier(s)” was originally scheduled as part of the annual “8 Films to Die For” festival in 2007 but, due to its harsh rating, was granted only a VERY limited theatrical run before being released to DVD. It’s definitely not date night material, lest you start an argument over who’s desensitized vs. who’s too squeamish. It’s also not likely to leave you lying down in the fetal position, like some other French horror films I know of. But if the current crop of bland American horror leaves a bad taste in your mouth, then the palette-cleansing “Frontier(s)” should spice things up a bit.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Hmm. Subtitles or dubbed? When and how do we discover that the family members are cannibals?

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