Frontier(s) (2007)

Director: Xavier Gens

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Karina Testa, Samuel Le Bihan, Estelle Lefébure, Aurélien Wiik, David Saracino, Chems Dahmani, Maud Forget, Amélie Daure, Rosine Favey, Adel Bencherif, Joël Lefrançois, Patrick Ligardes

Premiering in 2007, French filmmaker Xavier Gens made his name with this feature directorial debut which was part of the New French Extremity. It opens with Yasmine (Karina Testa), a pregnant woman who does not consider herself to be free while living within a world of hatred and chaos. Those feelings are exemplified by the backdrop of a French presidential election, where a far-right candidate has reached the second round. While a riot unfolds in protest, a street gang involving Yasmine take advantage of the situation to commit a robbery, hoping to steal cash in order to escape Paris.

In pursuit of the gang are the police, who end up shooting Yasmine's brother, Sami (Adel Bencherif). Planning to hide out with the money, the group arrive at a family-run inn near the border where they are lulled into a false sense of security. The danger becomes clear as the group realizes they are in the clutches of a Nazi cannibal family intending to create a new master race.

Tensions rise amidst the gang before their arrival, as they clash over their next course of action and question their future. Whether it's Yasmine's desire to get an abortion out of fear of her mother's reaction, the struggle of her ex Alex (Aurélien Wiik) to prove himself, the blunt nature of Tom (David Saracino), or how Farid (Chems Dahmani) comes out of his shell as circumstances grow nasty, there is a feeling of who these characters are. The cast effectively capture the group's struggles to rise above the circumstances of their birth, finding themselves on uneven ground long before they enter the Reich-loving lions den.

Quick cuts attempt to capture the chaotic and uncomfortable sensations visualized on-screen, although this is a double-edged sword which leaves effective sequences diminished by the inclusion of shaky camera work. Not affected by this is a claustrophobic scene involving climbing through a mineshaft, which is part of the uncomfortableness effectively captured before the proceedings get viscerally nasty.

One can feel the inspirations left by Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as Gens uses the unsanitary conditions to convey a tableau of human suffering. Through the uncomfortable tension and grisly effects, the proceedings linger on the characters' nightmarish experiences as they serve the purpose of farm animals, playing the part of meat to fuel the beings who consider themselves superior. Key to it all are a family who grow more horrifying as further revelations are unveiled, particularly with a stand-out moment around a dinner table where their infighting reveals itself.

Effectively built up is the suffering of Yasmine, who endures the worst treatment while seeing first-hand the future which awaits her, as the meek Eva (Maud Forget) hopes to fool herself into making the terrible reality easier to endure by lying herself into a fantasy. The story builds up the worst ordeals before she moves into final girl status, as the resolve and determination solidifies on her blood-soaked form to tear down the villainous forces in satisfyingly brutal ways.

Gens has more than just extreme violence on his mind, as the film hammers home the disgusting reality that right-wing terrors are not isolated incidents. Regardless of how many wish to portray this hateful ideology as being limited to rural areas, such hateful ideals are found in positions of power voted for by the people.

Frontier(s) is now available on Blu-Ray from Second Sight Films