Fronteire(s) (2007) dir. Xavier Gens
Starring: Karina Testa, Samuel le Bihan, Estelle Lefébure, Aurélien Wiik, David Saracino
WOW! “Frontiere(s)” is a French horror film premiering in the Midnight Madness Program of the Festival. It was the third film of the day, and after the tiring Bela Tarr experience I was half in sleep by the time the lights went down on the press screening. But “Frontiere(s)” brought me back to life, and when I wasn’t turning away in morbid disgust, my eyes were glued to the screen. There are two more public screenings of the film, if you’re in town, I highly recommend finding a ticket.
“Frontiere(s)” starts off by showing it's main characters, four tough French civil protesters fighting off and running away from the local security cops. After one of their friends dies in a hospital the foursome flees out of the city limits to a secluded village. Little do they know they are out of the frying pan and into the fire. The action film they were just in slowly turns into a horror film. The inn-keepers are a family of Nazi cannibals who prey on their clientele and experiment on them in hopes of creating a new Aryan master race. Between the Nazi war criminal father and the sicko McMahon-wrestling family rejects the four liberal protesters are in for the fight of their lives.
Gens doesn’t break new ground in the genre, but he certainly takes the best elements of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Haute Tension”, “Saw”, “Cabin Fever” and other torture-porn films and creates his own jambalaya of horror that trumps them all. The killings and torture are downright Nasty (yes, with a capital “N”). Though I sat in a theatre of jaded, desensitized press and industry people everyone turned away and groaned when one of the visitors had their Achilles heals clipped off by a pair of giant rusty pincers.
There are many other some impressive head and limb splatterings and one awesome buzz-saw moment. Gens knows the genre well, and so he's not without his sense of humour. When one of the meanies reveals the table-top buzzsaw to us, he reverentially frames the shot like Kubrick framing his Monolith.
Gens can improve on his camera-work though. As a rookie director he plays it safe and directs his action with an over-the-top “28 Weeks Later” shaky camera. I suspect in time he’ll learn to trust his own skills and not rely on that overused crutch of a technique.
Xavier Gens is a filmmaker to watch for, unfortunately I saw on the IMDB he’s the man at the helm of that John Woo-wannabe double-gun action film starring Timothy Olyphant, “Hitman”. But it’s his first American film, so at least he’s cutting his teeth. We’ll definitely see more creative work from him in the future. Enjoy.