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FRONTIERE(S) (France 2007) **** DVD capsule by COOP

Posted on June 11th, 2008
Posted on June 11th, 2008

What’s with the French these days? If this film and “À l’intérieur (Inside)” are any indication, France has reigned supreme in the horror genre for the last year or two. I say that because we are just getting them now on DVD. I include the recent release, “The Strangers,” in that category, which is a rip-off of the superior French film “Ils (Them).” Surprisingly, “Frontière(s)” had a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles, stamped with the dreaded NC-17 rating, but this was a ploy to use the film’s brutality to draw a die hard horror audience.

Oh, it worked. I wouldn’t have known about this film in a timely fashion if I hadn’t heard about it coming out briefly in the theaters for one weekend last month. The unrated, red-band trailer promised a frightening and gory experience. I invited a friend over and watched it. She twitched, cringed and gasped the entire 108 minutes.

Obviously not the best date movie.

What’s apparently causing this surge in the quantity and quality of French horror films becomes obvious from the beginning of the film. Four Arab immigrant youths and one woman flee from French police after an apparent bank robbery. They use the current immigration riots plaguing the Gaul nation to cover their escape. The brother of the woman dies in the process, plunging them into tragedy before they ever reach their object of peril, the German border. At the border, they shack up in an inn, run by some quirky folks. Turns out the folks are the adult children of fugitive Nazis war criminals with a plan to continue their bloodline and forcefully add to the family tree despite the “impure” blood of the interlopers. They only want the girl, not the dudes, which leads to a bloody mess.

Yikes, this one almost matched the intensity of “Inside” but fell short only in the story-telling department. It ripped-off everything from “Chain Saw Massacre” to Rob Zombie, who ripped-off “Chain Saw Massacre.”

Illegal immigrants who live in America can breathe a sigh of relief they didn’t cross the border into France. Not because of loitering Nazi psychos, but because they have an acute crisis over there. The government’s no-tolerance/no-rights policy against illegal immigration has the resident immigrant youths rioting across Paris and beyond. The future of the country is bleak and the residents are making bleak movies as a result. Same thing happened to Hong Kong before England handed it over to China in 1999. Same thing happened to the U.S. during and after the Vietnam War in the 1970’s, and so forth. I’m not making a political statement here at all, but I did want to point out the pattern when it comes to making effective horror/violent films.

Look at Japan, one of the hardest-working, most industrious nations in the world. Now their violence and suicide rates are going off the charts. No wonder they held the trophy for most effective horror movies over the last several years, producing winners like “The Ring” and “The Grudge.” Although J-horror appears to be on the downswing, we’ve recently had Thailand (see the “Art of the Devil” films) and South Korea (“The Host” and “Oldboy”) picking up the slack. Both of those countries have had recent civil unrest, now France is joining in. Let’s hope America doesn’t have to suffer such unrest to continue to produce decent horror films.

If films like “Frontière(s),” “Inside,” “Them” and “High Tension” are any indication, France has entered the horror game for keeps and could corner the market for the next couple of years.

Not to worry, though. If you’re an anti-Francophile, Hollywood will handle the remakes as they always do. Just don’t expect them to be as good as the originals (a-la “Them” vs. “The Strangers”).

SPECIAL NOTE: The programmers for the yearly After Dark horror franchise, entitled “8 Films to Die For,” originally had this film in their line-up. Supposedly, they could not include the film because its violence warranted an NC-17 rating.

Here’s the trailer below. WARNING: The trailer is unrated and accurately reflects the intensity of the violence in the film…

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