MAY 22, 2008
It figures that one of the few good movies that After Dark has acquired over the past few years would get the most limited release. Frontière(s) was released on approximately 8 screens for about as many minutes just two weeks ago, sans any sort of advertising or press. Granted, it was due to hit DVD 4 days later, but still, it would have been nice to see the film in the theater. And since it has an NC-17 rating (which is a nice surprise; I am so used to movies simply being 'unrated' it's almost charming to see the rating again), Blockbuster won't carry it (no R rated cut like Inside, I guess) even on its online service, which STILL limits its audience.
But while I demand you move heaven and earth to see Inside, Frontière(s) is merely a decent movie you might like, though dying without ever having seen it won't keep you up nights (especially since you're dead). There's not much originality on display here, with just about everything in the film taken from any of the Chainsaw films (even the remake/prequel ones), Hostel, Saw, and whatever movie writer/director Xavier Gens happened to see that had a "they are being kidnapped for breeding purposes" subplot. Take your pick!
However, Gens is a fantastic shooter, and despite some too-rapid cutting during some of the 'horror' scenes, the film is quite well made. The confident shooting, coupled with some truly gory/effective sequences, is just about enough to forgive the script's lack of originality, not to mention focus.
Early on in the film, our "heroes" (they have robbed a bank - fuck em as far as I'm concerned!) are trying to escape a riot that has been caused due to outrage over a right wing political candidate (one character exclaims "great, France has their own George Bush!"). But these elements are clumsily shoehorned into the film (even moreso at the end, when a radio broadcast brings it up again, long after we've forgotten about it in the first place), and stink of simply trying to give the film some social relevance. It doesn't work though, because it's clichéd for one thing and left out of the film for nearly 90 minutes for another. Originality issues aside, the film at least works fine on its own; randomly tossing in some half-assed 'commentary' is just distracting and eventually pointless. The bank robbery angle is also fairly pointless in the long run - why make your protagonists unlikeable right from the start when the money has no actual bearing on the plot? I could see if it was used to try to bribe the bad guys, or if the group fought over the money which led to their capture, but like the political stuff, it's essentially forgotten once the horror starts; not even consequential enough to qualify as a Macguffin.
I also wish that J.R. Media Services in Burbank, CA (the subtitler credits himself the second the film fades to end credits) had done a better job with their goddamn subs. In addition to occasional nonsense like this:
There are also several occasions where they are doing an exact translation that doesn't quite work (no one says "Go away!" to their friend who is trying to rescue them, they would be saying something like "go! run!"). But the most annoying blunder is constantly putting two characters' lines in a single scene. This completely betrays dramatic tension at times, because they will have someone's response on the screen long before the character actually says it. At one point, our head Nazi villain says "What do you want?" to one of the heroes, who replies, after a few seconds' pause for dramatic effect: "Kill me!". However, the subs give us both lines at once, so we are essentially knowing his response before the question is even finished.
Sadly, the DVD is completely featureless other than trailers for other LG releases (lucky us). Thus I cannot really condone a full price purchase, but if you come across it cheap (or for rental) then you should enjoy it for the most part. It's good to know that the French can make generic knockoffs just as well as we can!
What say you?