“Frontier(s)” – A.J. Hakari

The phrase “torture porn” has been tossed about lately as a means to describe horror flicks that take their violent content to whole new extremes. Some flicks that get slapped with this label, from The Hills Have Eyes to the Saw series, actually embrace an underlying theme or sort of style that doesn’t make them feel so simplistic. Movies like Frontier(s) (don’t even ask me to explain the parentheses), though, are what give good, scary, and, God forbid, intelligent horror films a bad name. Like last year’s Captivity, there’s no finesse or touch of class to go along with Frontier(s); it’s almost two hours’ worth of torture for torture’s sake, and although its sheer ferocity is almost something to be admired, its tactlessness and extremely derivative story are not.

Riots sweep through Paris after the election of a right-wing politico to the government. Frenzied, pregnant, and having just watched her brother die before her eyes, young Yasmine (Karina Testa) has no choice but to flee to Holland with her criminal boyfriend (Aurélien Wiik) and some of his hooligan pals. The kids make their way to what looks to be a quaint little inn in the middle of the countryside. But as they soon come to find out, their hosts are more interested in serving them as dinner than in serving them dinner. The innkeepers turn out to be a twisted family of neo-Nazis who enjoy turning those unfortunate enough to stop by into their next meals. As this cannibal clan sets about picking off the youngsters one by one, it eventually comes down to Yasmine to try to survive her ordeal and fight her way to freedom.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But the way that Frontier(s) director Xavier Gens (who also helmed last year’s ill-fated Hitman) borrows liberally from other grisly opuses, the film doesn’t come across so much as a tribute to them as it does a case of outright thievery. Pound for pound, this is pretty much an unofficial remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (pick your version). From the bickering kids serving as our protagonists and similar plot twists to a homicidal family taking center stage as the demented villains, Frontier(s) not only rips off this film, it rips off the other films that tried to rip it off. In short, if you’ve seen any horror movie about a deranged group of individuals slaughtering a bunch of twentysomethings you couldn’t care less about, then you’ve pretty much seen everything that Frontier(s) has to offer.

The one thing that Gens does to try and set apart this feature from the many others like it is jack up the gore factor to 11. The faint of heart should take note and avoid Frontier(s) at all costs, for this is a flick where the red stuff flows like the Nile, and horrible fates like meeting the business end of a shotgun are as gruesome as they probably will ever appear on film. But aside from packing in impressively outlandish gore, there’s nothing about Frontier(s) that gives it a sense of purpose or unique voice of its own to distinguish itself from other members of the horror genre. There’s no real suspense to the story, partially because it holds few surprises to keep viewers hooked but mostly because the turn of events offers little breathing room for an increasingly tense atmosphere. Everything about the film is obvious from the get-go, so all the viewers really find themselves left with is waiting for the characters to bite the big one until the credits roll. The way Gens sets the film against the backdrop of France’s racial inequality only serves to give the film an air of pretentiousness rather than enhance the paper-thin plot.

Frontier(s) will find its own little audience on DVD, comprised of those gorehounds who aren’t scared off at the prospect of having to read subtitles while blood’s being shed before their very eyes. But in the end, Frontier(s) hasn’t done anything that Tobe Hooper hasn’t done before — and a lot better, to boot.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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