Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Frontier(s)

The brutal French splatter film Frontier(s) opens with footage of riots in the Paris suburbs in response to the election of an extreme right-wing candidate. It then transitions from the frying pan into the fire, as four hoodlums flee the authorities for the countryside and wind up in an inn operated by cannibalistic neo-Nazis. That juxtaposition is what passes for social commentary in the film, which otherwise commits itself to a relentlessly ugly and derivative reworking of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Along with films like Á L'Intérieur (Inside) and Haute Tension (High Tension), Frontier(s) represents a mini-movement of Hollywood-slick yet fashionably outré French horror that seeks to beat its extreme American counterparts at their own game. In this particular case, director Xavier Gens (Hitman) probably should have aimed higher.

For all practical purposes, the election-day riots are a red herring, since the gang of four, having just pulled off a heist, needed to get out of the city anyway. With the exception of tough, three-months-pregnant heroine Karina Testa, they're not an especially sympathetic lot, but their transgressions seem petty next to those of their hosts at a country inn. The place initially seems inviting: When two of the men first arrive, there are plenty of vacancies and a pair of attractive and amorous women offering some hospitality. But by the time Testa and her sleazy ex-boyfriend catch up, their friends have already discovered the butchery, incest, and sub-human, pit-dwelling cannibals that diminish the inn's rustic charms.

Comparisons to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Hostel, The Descent, and the long tradition of "last woman standing" slasher films are unavoidable, but Gens doesn't seem as interested in originality as he does in trying to outdo his influences. Gens has plenty of style, and he and cinematographer Laurent Bares have worked hard to give Frontier(s) a tactile quality, as if the lens were coated in the same blood and muck that covers the characters. Yet there's no depth, surprises, or wit to his screenplay, which seems motivated by the sole desire to generate the vilest, most disgusting people and images imaginable. Unfortunately for Gens, the film world is already awash more talented and singular sickos.