Frontière(s) | France | 2007 | Directed by Xavier Gens
Logline: Following violent political riots, a gang of thieves flees Paris, only to be holed up at a remote country inn with a family of neo-Nazis.
“My name is Yasmine. I’m three months pregnant. One day someone said, ‘Men are born free with equal rights.’ The world in which I live is the opposite. Who would want to be born to grow up in the chaos and the hate? I’ve decided to spare him the worst.” Good luck with that Yaz.
It is a few years in the future, and Paris is in the middle of rioting, as the ultra-conservative candidate has become the new President. A small band of Arab-blooded thieves have taken advantage of the chaos, and with a bag of stolen cash plan to escape to Amsterdam. But Murphy’s Law intervenes and will govern the rest of their short lives.
In the chaos Sami (Adel Bencherif) is shot and mortally wounded. His pregnant sister Yasmine (Karina Testa) and Alex (Aurélien Wiik) take him to hospital emergency, but the authorities are alerted and Yasmine and Alex hop it. Meanwhile Tom (David Saracino) and Farid (Chems Darmani), who are several hours ahead and exhausted, decide to spend the night at a rural inn. Farid texts Alex and Yasmine the rendezvous point.
The inn at Dachville, not far from the border (a la frontière), turns out to be a domestic hellhole, with Geisler (Jean-Pierre Jorris), an elderly Nazi sympathizer, at the helm of the clan. It soon becomes apparent his two sons Karl (Patrick Ligardes) and Hans (Joël Lefrançois), his daughter Gilberte (Estelle Lefébure), and extended family members Goetz (Sameul Le Behan) and Klaudia (Amélie Daure) are involved in attemping to create a pureblooded race. Despite her swarthy features the patriarch Le Von Geisler is certain Yasmine’s unborn baby is perfect family fodder, and her mates will make a great celebratory meal. Mahlzeit!
Writer/director Xavier Gens has made a tour-de-force of unrelenting grimness. It’s an assault on the senses that will appeal darkly fabulous to horrorphiles, and has become renowned over the past decade as one of the key movies in the often argued and sometimes maligned movement referred to as the New French Extremism. Three other notable horror titles are High Tension, Inside, and the French-Canadian Martyrs. I’d opt to include the Spanish [REC] & [REC]2, and the Indonesian Macabre, as they are of the same calibre and intensity.
The production values of all those movies are top notch. Frontier(s) sports terrific camerawork and cinematography, all stylish, grimy glamour, fantastic special effects (mostly lots of bloodletting, but also great prosthetics and sparingly-used CGI), an effective soundtrack (even the pop-Goth song over the end credits fits), and superb production design and art direction; more gorgeous filth and decay, Frontier(s) delivers in spades.
Performances are all excellent, but honours must go to charismatic Karina Testa’s harrowing deliverance, which takes the audience on the full arc of human shock and trauma. The scene where Eva (Maud Forget), the family’s black sheep, “pretties” up Yasmine for the family feast is haunting. The other standout role is that of the SS-adoring papa, played with chilling conviction by Jean-Pierre Jorris, he certainly looks and acts the part with sadistic aplomb.
Drenched in the abject darkness of true nightmarish horror, Frontier(s) is definitely a horror movie for hardened horror fans; us True Believers who love the tone dark as oil and the atmosphere thick as bratwurst. Squeamish, stay clear of this border, it pushes boundaries (Archilles’ tendon alert!) Indeed, in the States the movie was slapped with an NC-17, and subsequently disqualified from inclusion in the US "Horrorfest: 8 Films To Die For", which it had been originally slated for. Sure, there are movies that are more graphic, but few that combine the level of atmospheric intensity at such a sustained pace.
Yes, Xavier Gens takes you to the edge of comfortable horror, then slaps you hard in the face, and asks, “Care for a little more?” It’s a socio-political snake pit that is as sleazy and sordid as it is gruesome and ghastly, a truly sensational piece of work, a masterful modern horror.