It’s time for another venture into the world of the New French Extremity with 2007’s Frontièr(s). Directed by Xavier Gens (Coldskin, The Divide), this was released the same year he also brought us the Hitman movie with Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47. But we don’t talk about that film. Instead let’s delve into a world of riots, cannibalism, mutant children and racial purity!
Gens admits to being a big fan of both Tobe Hooper’s seminal Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s infamous Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and that comes through strongly in the writing. There’s certainly parallels to be drawn between both dark, cannibalistic families as well as the sexual overtones found in Frontièr(s) and Salo.
The plot is reasonably simple. In the midst of riots in Paris, a gang of friends stage a robbery that doesn’t go according to plan. One of them is injured, and they decide that now is probably the time to get while the getting is good. They head out of the city, planning to cross the border into The Netherlands, have a cup of tea, and wait for all this to blow over.
Sadly, what instead happens is that their choice of overnight stops has to rank pretty high on the list of terrible places to stop overnight as they find themselves captured and at the mercy of a group of Nazi cannibals. This dysfunctional family is led by the honestly pretty terrifying “Father” (Jean-Pierre Jorris – Gandahar, Tanguy) who decrees that while most of the erstwhile robbers are slated to end up in the larder or on the dinner table, the pregnant Yasmine (Katerina Testa – Switch, Dolls and Angels) gets the dubious honour of being married into the family whether she likes it or not. Will anyone make it out alive? Is the Third Reich still alive and well in the French countryside or will all concerned meet their end in an orgy of standoffs, shootouts, explosions and blood?
While this new release from Second Sight doesn’t offer a new transfer or restoration of the movie, this version still looks fine, capturing the stark lighting effects that Gens uses in the different locales. There’s not much to choose from in terms of audio. You can have it in French 2.0 stereo or French 5.1 surround and that’s your lot. No English dub here, only subtitles!
There’s a solid selection of special features, including an audio commentary with Zoë Rose Smith (founder of Ghouls Magazine) and Kelly Gredner (writer for Ghouls Magazine) which is honestly kind of forgettable. They talk a little about the genre of New French Extremity but don’t really offer any in-depth insight into the film or the genre. It’s a shame we didn’t get the commentary track with Xavier Gens and Karina Testa which was included with some other Blu-ray versions.
There are multiple interviews with cast and crew, including Xavier Gens, Karina Testa and Maud Forge as well as the film’s composer Jean-Piere Taïeb and cinematographer Laurent Barès. The behind the scenes featurette, inventively titled ‘The Making of Frontier(s)’ is well worth a watch, with some genuinely interesting and entertaining behind the scenes insights into the film.
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On top of that there’s the usual selection of deleted scenes, behind-the scenes photos and trailers to watch. There’s even a short film called Fotografik which was initially aired as part of the TV series Sable Noir back in 2006 and is a fun little slice of murderous haunted house action. Purchasers of the Limited Edition also get the usual slipcase with new artwork by artist James Neal, a collector’s book with essays by a variety of folks including Dr Sarah Cleary and Mark H Harris and six collectors’ art cards.
So after all this, is Frontièr(s) worth purchasing? The comparisons to films like Texas Chainsaw are difficult to ignore, but while Gens may wear his inspiration on his sleeve, he still tells his own story. Frontièr(s) stands on its own and deserves to be judged on its own merits. Fans of the genre should definitely check this one out.
Frontièr(s is out now on Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.