I've said it before, and I'll probably keep saying it for a while. French horror is hot. So hot in fact, that the horror genre is regaining its status of creative pool where first-time directors can show off their talent. This time, Xavier Gens demonstrates. Together with A l'Intérieur, his first directorial effort Frontières is dominating modern horror cinema.
Some of you may already be familiar with the director, as he's the man behind the hit/pulp/game adaptation of Hitman, which gathered a lot more attention than Frontières. Unrightfully so, because his first film beats Hitman in every aspect.
That said, Frontières brings nothing new to the horror genre. At all. It takes most of its events from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and gives it a Calvaire treatment. The story is extremely simple, with four young criminals stumbling upon a family of neo-nazi cannibals in the outback of France. The protagonists are pretty much idiots that deserve no better, so for horror fans it's really twice the fun.
Gens uses his film to show off his visual skills. Where Hitman was pretty dull and badly edited, Frontières hits the spot. Gens smartly switches between static and manic camera work where needed, applies his filters well and desaturates his shots in such a way that the movie emits a rather menacing feel without becoming too dark and lifeless for its own good.
Frontières is a real visual feast, which continues the tradition of modern horror films morphing from cheap looking realism to films that carry a lot of their atmosphere in the presentation. For those of you who are worrying that it makes Frontières too slick, think again. Gens succeeds as no other in giving his film an extremely dirty look. Nearly everything looks old, rusted and muddy, the family members are a bunch of interesting freaks and the surroundings give that little extra gritty flair where needed.
Gens also provides a smart soundtrack, which keeps the tension going but also has a classy side to it. Together with the visuals, there's already enough to keep most fans occupied for the entire span of the movie, as the quality is maintained throughout.
Luckily, Gens doesn't let down in the horror department either. Apart from his dirty style, there is plenty of gore to keep fans pleased. There are some pretty graphic scenes in the film, although Gens does turn away his camera when people get hit hard. Nevertheless, Frontières packs some serious punch from time to time.
Together with the gore, there's enough freaky weirdness and downright perversion to keep most seasoned horror fans happy. And even better, it's all delivered with enough tongue in cheek pleasure to make Frontières a fun, dirty and insane ride. Gens also adds a political layer, with the neo-nazi sub theme and the beginning of the film taking place during the riots in Paris. Although this didn't really bother me, I felt it didn't add all that much either.
So if you're a horror fan, be sure not to miss this. You won't see anything new, but chances are you haven't seen it much better than you'll see it here. Gens sure knows what he's doing, his film is certainly up to modern standards and several scenes are memorable enough to warrant a viewing. The French keep delivering, let's hope they can keep the momentum going for a while to come.