one of the better trailers i’ve seen in a while was for the UK release of the french film frontier(s) (see video on the right). it was finally released here on dvd last week, so i rushed out tuesday and picked up a copy. i was a little surprised to see the dvd packaging… it’s very clearly identified as one of the “8 films to die for” and part of horrorfest 2007. the packaging is exactly the same as the eight films i reviewed last month. so, it appears there are now nine films in the eight films to die for series this year, which is causing me some minor degree of confusion. do they believe horror fans cannot count? are they going to release another film next month… and then another and another, in the hopes that we won’t notice and will just keep buying them saying to ourselves “well, i have the other seven, i better get this one too?” if so… that’s marketing genius.
a far less plausible explanation is the official one… frontier(s) could not secure an R rating and was removed from the original octuplet to be released separately later. that still doesn’t explain why the packaging includes it as one of the “eight,” but i am willing to let it go — and i will tell you why.
this is a kick-ass movie.
if this had been released in the original 2007 horrorfest line-up, it would have easily been the best of the eight. the film excels in most areas, lacking the most in the “originality” department (but who said originality was so important?). the story is familiar… a group of criminals on the lamb stumble into a something much, much worse than prison (e.g., from dusk ’til dawn). a strong female lead suffers through numerous unspeakable experiences (e.g., haute tension, hostel 2) at the hands of an inbred family (e.g., texas chainsaw massacre, the hills have eyes) determined to torture and/or kill and/or impregnate her (depending on where you are in the narrative), leading to a conclusion involving her fighting back while losing most of her sanity along the way (e.g., pretty much all of the afore-mentioned films). the tone and feel of the film are most similar to the two most recent texas chainsaw films (going so far as to include the “forced to have dinner with the insane family” sequence) and the hills have eyes remake, which is not all that surprising since the latter is directed by alexandre aja whose haute tension started the current gore trend in french horror. like haute tension, this is a vicious film which refuses to hold anything back and leaves nothing to the imagination… which basically means it was awesome.
the only possible criticism is that frontier(s) is never quite as good as the films it so unabashedly steals from. the ‘final girl’ is given little characterization, making identifying with her difficult. the psychotic family members are never quite as creepy as they could have been (with the possible exception of the nazi-crazed father). that said, the good aspects far outweigh any bad. the film is overflowing with style and often leaves you with that wonderful feeling i first felt when seeing the original texas chainsaw massacre… that perhaps the filmmakers don’t have your best interests at heart, and maybe entertaining you isn’t their primary goal. it also features one of the more grotesque deaths i’ve seen involving a table saw, and a head explosion rivaled only by the prowler, maniac and scanners. while its possible not every movie-goer shares my love of exploding heads, in my mind that moment is worth the price of admission alone.