Monday, March 16, 2009
Well, I finally got Frontiers from Netflix, so I figure I would give it a review. I had heard it was another in the new French horror films that was brutal and horrifying, so I figured it couldn't be that bad. Did it live up to its billing? Well, let's see!
It seems that France is in a bit of political upheaval and we have some kids who need to get the hell out of there. So they take a bunch of money, shoot a couple of cops, and decide to head off to the countryside to hide out and then run to Amsterdam. Well, one of them got shot, so two go off ahead and the other two take the wounded guy to the hospital. The guy that got shot dies and the two who were with him flee to the countryside to catch up to the first two. Problem is, the first two arrive at a hostel run by murderous... Nazis?
Hmmm, I guess it's better than backwoods rednecks, right? Well, these guys basically are backwoods rednecks, so it's not. The kids seem to be picked off one by one except for the lone girl, who the Nazis think will be the next great addition to their family (and she's pregnant, score!), so they try to keep her alive. Well, she doesn't want to be there, so she tries to escape from the horror! I won't ruin the ending, suffice to say there is some bloodshed involved with her escape attempt.
Cinematography: The film doesn't really do very well in this department. It tends to use a lot of light filters in it for no real reason. The dark blue filter is used to make things look like dusk maybe? The yellow filter to make it feel more gritty? I don't know, but between that and the rapid cuts and shaky cam during most of the action in the movie, it was rather distracting. The sets are done well and everything, but it's nothing we haven't seen before (farmhouses in squalor, hostels with weird people running them). I really could have done without most of the camera movement. It gets a paltry 2.5 out 5 for Cinematography.
Execution: Yes, it's something we've all seen before: some city dwellers go to the country and get ravaged by the people that seem to resent the city folk just by virtue of them living in the city. They throw in a bit of a twist with the family being Nazis, but that really isn't that much of a twist. It makes them racist and territorial? That doesn't sound anything like the hicks in most murderous rampage movies! The acting is good enough, but I really didn't care for the characters. They weren't that compelling. Yasmina, the main girl in the movie, really didn't grab my sympathy or anything. In fact, in most the scenes where she was supposed to look traumatized, she mainly looked like a Palsy sufferer. Seriously, since when did walking like you have Parkinson's disease make it look like you had just been through a lot? I can handle some shaking, but at the end of this clip she looks like a bad zombie actor. It gets a 2.5 out of 5 for Execution as well.
Sub-genre Comparison: It's no High Tension. As far as some of the other movies similar, it's no Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes either. The evil people in this movie fail to resonate with me. I thought the grandfather of the group (who was supposedly a Nazi that hid after WWII) was the best of the family. He was interesting and powerful. Then he got shot. The brothers and sisters of the family were pretty uninteresting. There was a subtext in the movie that the brothers were warring over who would take over for the father, but it's never really fleshed out. And you don't really know who belongs to the family and who was just sort of adopted. I would much rather watch The Cottage again. It gets a 2 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.
Production Value: It does look pretty good for the most part. I have to admit, in the parts where gore shows up, it's pretty well done. I kind of figured it would be more brutal than it was, but it wasn't exactly tame by any means. I don't really like super gory movies, but I can handle them if they work the gore in with a decent story. The previously linked scene shows the best gore scene in the movie (a guy falling on a giant table saw is usually pretty much the peak for any movie), but there are a couple of other decent scenes in there as well. The sets are done well and the effects are believable. It will hold up well in that regard, so I give it a 3.5 out of 5 for Production Value.
Scares: Well, the movie doesn't really scare you, tending to try with the "gross you out with violence" more than actual scares. However, it does succeed in some parts. Again, the morgue scene linked to before did well. One thing that bothered me was the idea of the "children" in the mine shaft in this movie. There's a girl the family has adopted and impregnated a few times. Well, her kids were never up to snuff, so they stuck them in a mine shaft and feed them tourists on occasion. They only show up for a couple of scenes, but they are the scariest scenes in the movie. I really wish they would have fleshed them out a bit more. My favorite scene is one with two characters crawling through a very narrow tunnel to try to escape this mine. It's claustrophobic and eerie, with one of the children showing up behind them at one point before you really know what they are. It's a wonderful scene, and that with a couple other earns it a 3.5 out of 5 for Scares.
So, the total is an underwhelming 14 out of 25 for Frontiers. It wasn't as brutal as I thought it would be and wasn't scary enough to carry itself on tension alone. There are some worthwhile scenes, but overall the movie felt a little to mashed together. Plus it really bothered me watching a girl walk like a toddler for the last 45 minutes of the movie. I know she was supposed to be traumatized, but that had all the subtlety of Ben Stiller's portrayal of Simple Jack.