The French have a very particular way of creating horror films. For better or for worse, the films tend to be outrageously violent and shocking but still maintain admiration from the horror community. Whether a film like Irreversible or Inside is liked as a movie is hardly the case, it is about the feeling you get after the credits roll. That feeling of disgust or shock may bother you but remember that it was a horror film and is supposed to get a reaction of repulsion from you. Frontiers works on the same level but while the violence is a bit more tame (not by much though), there is a great narrative that keeps you hooked even when you get that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Frontiers is a rather hard story to explain because it acts like three different films wrapped into one with elements of recent horror films thrown in. It starts out with a group of French individuals who live in a riot filled Paris and steal from a bank to start new lives elsewhere. Yasmina is the main protagonist and this film is her story, she is pregnant and the father is one of the men who helped in the robbery. Well, they escape (except for one) and make their way into the countryside where they find a hostel…yep; you see where this is going. The movie switches gears here; it becomes a French knockoff of Eli Roth’s Hostel, while playing very close to Roth’s source material in terms of the men being seduced by these demented women. Not at any time does the movie feel like it’s cheaply imitating any other film, but providing its own French twist. I started writing down every reference that I saw but it’s not worth it to mention them because if you know horror, you will catch them.
At about the 45 min mark, the movie once again switches gears, the people running the hostel all turn out to be a part of a family that follows this old Nazi who performs experiments on people and wants to create the “pure” race. While this may seem ridiculous to some of you with all the turns the movie takes, it really is executed well. The film transitions seamlessly into each section and never makes you question the work of the director. What I loved about Frontiers is that it took the best parts of American horror and then worked its own Nazi storyline into the mix. It’s great! There are even times later on of dialogue that is beautifully done. It is really hard to find interesting conversations in horror films these days, so this film won me over with its dedication to character development. The brutality of the movie ramps up as the duration goes on and it all leads up to a very satisfying and thought provoking ending that will leave you shaking.
I have come to the conclusion that French horror films have some of the best practical gore effects in the world today. Frontiers is no exception, wasting very little time on CGI, the deaths in this movie are done very well. Films like Inside and Martyrs have really set the standard for gore effects and Frontiers continues that tradition. I only had a few issues with the movie but they didn’t detract from my overall experience. One issue is the car chase sequence, it is poorly edited and felt like the guys behind the SyFy movies were given the controls for that. You can’t tell what’s going on and the camera keeps cutting quickly to make it seem like the cars are speeding. There is also the issue of digital filters put over the film at different times, like the “nighttime” filter. The movie was mostly shot in the day and in order to give the appearance of it being dark, they digitally added an effect that darkened everything. It is very noticeable and takes me out of the movie but it was probably a budget thing, so I can let it slide. There is also a scene in the end involving an “explosion” that seems cheap and it made it look as if the writers did not know where to go. Remember, these are only little things and they really don’t take away from the overall experience. The ending will leave you wanting to watch it again and I cannot encourage you more to view this.
In the end, Frontiers is a great horror film that will give those who want a deep narrative along with explicit violence. While you may find too many similarities in the beginning to other films, give it some more time and you will see this gory flower blossom into something that is very much its own. Of all the French horror films, this one is more digestible and “enjoyable” compared to what has already been put out. See for yourself!