By Chris Cabin
As a horror movie, Xavier Gens' gruesome Frontier(s) is all mechanism and little flavor. As a mechanism, it throttles, slashes, upchucks, and goes through the whole sloppy mess all over again with an almost perverse glee. People are cooked and carved like Easter Sunday turkeys, melted down to liquid skin and bone and, just for kicks, bled like a prize hog while hanging upside down. Revolting as it all is, writer and director Gens has a problem, the very same problem Rob Zombie faced in House of 1,000 Corpses: an inability to give up the ghost of that all-too-familiar Texas massacre.
Four Muslim thieves flee a riot-ridden Paris with enough dough to retire at a Cannes beach house, leaving behind a comrade with a bullet in the lung thanks to some anxious cops. The comrade happened to be the brother of the gang leader's pregnant main squeeze, Yasmine (an intense Karina Testa) which leads to a very hostile drive out to the countryside. Two of the thieves happen upon a hotel run by a family of brutish pig farmers, one of which, Gilberte, suffers from something akin to hyper-nymphomania. One of the thieves nails said nympho while her brothers prepare the knives and slaughtering accessories, right as Yasmine and leader Alex (Aurelien Wiik) arrive at the hotel.
As one might expect, hell breaks loose with ample crimson dressing. The whole mess gets fitfully bonkers but mention must be made of the paterfamilias of the pig farmers, an aging Nazi who dreams of creating his own Aryan race (he takes Yasmine as a birthing slave despite her brown hair). In classic form, it's Yasmine's charge to make her own way out of the slaughterhouse.
As a gorefest, Frontier(s) is a real whopper. Gens takes delight in drawing out a scene where Yasmine watches thick slices of her friend getting heaped onto the plates of the cannibalistic farmers and then watches it gobbled up as the elder passes Yasmine off to his eldest son and heir of his new Reich. The incest and familial tensions are salt and pepper for what is ostensibly a 90-minute full-body heave, but the final battle between Yasmine and Gilberte has a certain mud-clogged finesse.
All that being said, Frontier(s) ultimately is a passing fancy and nothing more. Rigid in structure and conventional in almost every dynamic, Gens' tries to play Hooper but doesn't have the brass ones and is satisfied to trade style for sheen and light flares. Would this be less egregious in a year that hadn't already delivered two monumental pieces of horror (Diary of the Dead, Inside)? Perhaps, but facts are facts, and Frontier(s), with light intimations towards Franco-Muslim relations and post-Sarkozy chaos, has neither the weight nor the ingenuity to make a solid impression past its unorthodox dispatching techniques. However, this is not to say that watching a man literally melt is or will ever be out of style.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd January 2008
Distributed by: After Dark Films
Production compaines: Chemin Vert, Cartel Productions, EuropaCorp, Pacific Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Producer: Laurent Tolleron
Screenwriter: Xavier Gens
Starring: Karina Testa as Yasmine, Aurélien Wiik as Alex, Patrick Ligardes as Karl, David Saracino as Tom, Maud Forget as Eva, Samuel Le Bihan as Goetz, Chems Dahmani as Farid, Amélie Daure as Klaudia, Estelle Lefébure as Gilberte, Rosine Favey as La mere, Adel Bencherif as Sami, Joël Lefrançois as Hans, Jean-Pierre Jorris as Von Geisler, Stéphane Jacquot as Policeman, Christine Culerier as Nurse