Director: Xavier Gens
Writer(s): Xavier Gens
Box Office: Unknown
Release Date: July 1st, 2007
IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
UK Blu Ray release? Yes
Karina Testa – Yasmine
Samuel Le Bihan – Goetz
Estelle Lefébure – Gilbert
Aurélien Wilk – Alex
David Saracino – Tom
Chems Dahmani – Farid
Maud Forget – Eva
Jean-Pierre Jorris – Von Geisler
Plot According to IMDb: A gang of young thieves flees Paris during the violent aftermath of a political election, only to hole up at an Inn run by neo-Nazis.
Inertia’s Insight: A shocking gut-punch that embodies all that the New French Extremity film movement stands for, Frontier(s) is an all out assault on your senses as it skirts the very bowels of human capability.
Protests are sparked by the election of a far-right political party, and a street gang consisting of Alex, Tom, Farid and Yasmine flee Paris after a mildly successful robbery that resulted in the death of Yasmine’s brother Sami.
Running for the border, Tom and Farid stop at an Inn on the outskirts of the city where they meet the sexually free Gilberte and Claudia who offer them the rooms for free, and a bit more thrown in for extras. Seduced by the women and the free opportunities this Inn seems to purvey, Tom and Farid join the owners for dinner. Tom, cocky and confident, is not afraid to dig in, but Farid is more reserved and his paranoia regarding the stolen cash they are holding is building by the minute. The first sign of something being off (apart from the free sex) is the tense and terrifying dinner scene. With its echoes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starting to show, Innkeeper Goetz attempts to feed ‘La Mere’, with sickening results. It’s a stomach churning moment even for the viewer, as Gens begins to shift us into darker territory, one ruled by the mentioned but not yet seen ‘Father’.
The arrival of the terrifying Karl signals the beginning of the end for Tom and Farid. Things quickly take a turn for the worse as Karl and Goetz attempt to murder them for the money, and for other reasons yet to be confirmed. The brutality of their fight is real, and Gens does not refrain from showing every stab wound, every fired shot and severed fingers. It’s a scene in horror where you wince and flinch, feeling every bit of pain. Managing to escape, Tom and Farid are eventually forced over a cliff and into the mine, further injuring the already wounded Tom.
Perhaps Gens’ most tense set-piece in this film that is wrought with unflinching pain is the crawling scene, in which Tom and Farid attempt to crawl through a mineshaft to safety. The low light, tight space and frantically strained movements by the two of them made me need to breathe for space in an open room. It taps in to the paranoia of claustrophobia and that horrible sense of dread at being trapped in such a confined space. Sadly for Tom there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for him, but Farid manages to escape.
Not far behind them and headed to the Inn are Alex and Yasmine. Distraught at the loss of their friend/brother and with the knowledge of Yasmine’s pregnancy now known, the road looks bleak and unknown for this couple. Attempting to get some rest before deciding on their next course of action, they instead drive head first into a blood-filled nightmare.
It’s not long before Alex and Yasmine understand the severity of the situation they are in. The terrifying introduction to the Nazi-era von Geisler is truly unsettling, elevating him from mere human to an almost demon-like figure in human form. You can see the hatred in his eyes, and the quest for ‘pure blood’ is evident. His destruction of Alex has echoes of Hostel; you can almost imagine von Geisler paying to enter such a place if he didn’t have a nightmare Inn of his own. But it’s the destruction and transformation of Yasmine that truly underpins this film in the category of French films both lauded and loathed in the early noughties.
Her shit-smeared attempt at escape only drives her into the path of Goetz and back to the Inn where her transformation from outsider to family member begins. As Alex is killed in front of her, Yasmine is knocked unconscious and wakes to find herself in the cleanest looking room we’ve seen at the Inn. There she is prepared for dinner by Eva, who tells the heartbreaking and twisted tale of her reason for being part of the family. It’s a dark tale that highlights the shocking horror at the Inn far more than the blood-stained horror that has come before or after. Eva’s frantic chopping of Yasmine’s hair and conformist attitude whilst telling a victims’ story is a stark juxtaposition, and one that carries forward into the final act, which starts with…
Another dinner scene. The echoes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre becomes an out-right homage. The dysfunctional family sits down to dinner with Father at the helm, announcing his Nazi intentions and plans for purification of France. Their female captor sits chained to the chair, as the food served is learnt to be her friend. The horror here is purely in von Geisler’s eyes and inflection as he narrates his vicious beliefs. Yasmine finds inner strength and turns the tables into a bloody, muddy, downright shitty finale.
The strength of the acting here is something which sets this film apart. Jorris’ eyes, Forget’s youthful innocence gleaned with meance and, easily the standout, Testa’s physical portrayal of a woman pushed to the edge of insanity, clinging on with the vain hope of survival.
The opening scenes of riots and violence are sadly nothing new to the streets of Paris and indeed many other European cities of the early noughties, and Gens executes the national feeling with superb skill into a family on the outskirts of society and insanity, intent on maintaining and purifying a beautiful, diverse city. The culture fights back, but to it’s own detriment and sanity.
Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * *
- The film is banned in Thailand due to its violence
- It was intended to be one of the eight films to die for as part of the 2007 HorrorFest, but had to be pulled as it was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA.
LE VON GEISLER: Here’s to pure blood!
EVA: Father says we belong to the perfect race. He came to live here after the big war. Me? They took me from my parents when I was a child. They raised me here, telling me that one day, my parents would come looking for me, if I was smart and did what they said. Father wanted me to grow up quick so I could give him an heir. Then came providence, but our children were born with problems. They’re not normal. I’m expecting my fourth. Father says it’s because of the blood.
All images courtesy of Google
Tomorrow: Night #19 – Paranormal Activity (2007)