What Do We Learn From Watching Frontier(s)? Horror is Not a Strong Suit of Contemporary French Cinema

I’m not entirely certain who’s trying to make French horror the next big thing, but I really hope they get it out of there system, ‘cos they need to quit it like a bad habit.  Don’t get me wrong.  The French have got an incredible cuisine and a rich film history, so they’ve done everything right in my book.  Hell, they even gave us the wonderfully creepy and surreal Eyes Without a Face, so it’s not that the French are simply incapable of making any decent entries in the genre.  That doesn’t stop Frontier(s), though, from being a near disgrace to both its genre and nation.  It’s seriously, totally stupid.

frontiers dumb

It should, of course, be noted that Frontier(s) isn’t even the first misstep the French have recently taken in trying to develop their own take on the horror genre.  High Tension was stupid and had the most shenanigansiest (and misogynistic and homophobic) ending of all time, and Inside had a preposterously ridiculous final act and an entirely different (yet nevertheless problematic) set of gender politics.  Now, having seen Frontier(s), I feel relatively confident in concluding that one of contemporary French horror’s defining traits is an obligation to plummet into the depths of absurdity in their final act.  Fortunately (?) for Frontier(s), director Xavier Gens is clearly an aspiring auteur, so he logically ups the ante by starting at ridiculous and then descending into batshit insanity and ham-fisted “political” commentary.  Or, in the simply words of the interwebs: HORROR MOVIE FAIL, Monsieur Gens.

The plot in Frontier(s) involves four Middle Eastern French youths fleeing Paris with a bunch of money they stole during riots that occurred over the election of a conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.  They’re Middle Eastern because that’s how this movie discusses racial issues in France, which is by not actually saying anything at all beyond “Mon dieu, France has racial tension!”  In a similarly subtle political analysis, the backwoods family our protagonists come across are Nazis, because the fascist genocide of the Nazi party is precisely the same as Sarkozy’s politics.  But beyond Frontier(s) being the sort of hyperbolic and reactionary allegory that seems clever and insightful (if you’re taking your daily dose of idiot pills), it’s also pretty inept on the most basic of levels.

 Any movie that lackadaisically plagiarizes  a bevy of recent horror films for its middle act [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the remake!), The Descent, and Hostel] to mask its lack of originality pay homage to the genre is automatically setting itself up for failure, but you’ve never seen a movie so wildly derail itself until you’ve seen the ending of Frontier(s).   While most of the movie is your standard captured-by-sadistic-yokels-in-the-isolated-countryside, the ending is a karo-syrup-drenched action movie in which (among the insanities) one Nazi gets a table saw through the chest, and the  final girl conveys her “shock” by convulsing around like an epileptic crack-whore doing the shimmy shakes ‘cos she needs of a fix to convey her “shock.”  Seriously, if it wasn’t for the fact that so much lazy and laborious nothing came before it, I’d totally be behind the unhinged insanity of the finale, but it is, so I’m not.  

It also must be noted that this movie does contain cannibalistic cave children who’re the product of too much Nazi inbreeding.  And did I also mention that the final girl is in a blood-soaked wedding dress?  And that she BITES A CHUNK OUT OF NEO-NAZI’S NECK?  That’s not a spoiler, by the way, that’s just me saying that in the tradition of ridiculous endings that seems to define French horror, this is some truly epic bullshit.  It’s a finely aged Gruyère of totally trashy, over-the-top gore cinema.

It’s just a pity that the rest of the movie is so très horrible.

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2 Responses

  1. YES, thank you! After reading quite a few positive reviews I thought I’m the only one who thought this was horrible.

    I still love french cinema, if only for their surrealism and the striking features of their actors.
    I wonder what you think about ‘Martyrs’. Didn’t make too much sense to me either.

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    • Funny enough, Martys is actually next on my queue in Netflix. I’m definitely hoping it bucks the trend, but I’m growing increasingly pessimistic, particularly given that the director of Martyrs is set to helm the Hellraiser remake. At least, from the trailers I’ve seen, that one seems to have a much more surreal visual sense, so I’m crossing my fingers.

      Like

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