Monday, April 10, 2017


An ultra conservative is elected as the French president, giving rise to riots in Paris. A gang of Arab Muslims that include Tom, Alex, Farid, Sami, and Yasmine steal money to escape the regime, but Sami is shot. They split up, hoping to meet up in a remote location later on. Yasmine takes her injured brother to the hospital with Alex, where he dies and she escapes the authorities. Tom and Farid with the money go to an in run by a strange family near the border. The people are welcoming in an uncomfortable way and something is deeply wring. They have no idea the inn contains horrors that they never imagined.

I watched Frontier(s) years ago and felt underwhelmed maybe because of its similarities to other films. However, upon rewatching, it's a powerful, intense film that's part Hostel, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre and pushes it further than either of those films. The film starts with the riots in Paris, establishing the city as dangerous. The drama within the Muslim gang is quickly revealed as Yasmine is pregnant with Alex's child and thinking of having an abortion because they aren't together anymore. Yasmine and Sami are the most likeable of the entire group, which makes it all the more tragic that Sami dies at the hospital. I was completely outraged when the hospital staff opted to notify the authorities of possible criminals rather than helping the man bleeding out. This shows how the world won't help them due to some brand of bigotry because there was no indication that they committed any crimes beyond the color of their skin. The imperative of the hospital to help people is secondary to that bigotry. Alex and Yasmine have no time to mourn Sami before they are forced to flee and meet their friends at a remote inn.

This brings us to the Hostel segment of the film where Tom and Farid arrive at the inn, greeted by Gilberte and Klaudia. The women offer them rooms free of charge and seduce them. Tom is completely into their offer, but is also quick to insult them when they reject sexual advances later. Farid rejects them at first, but then ends up videotaping their encounter. Like Hostel, the seduction proves to be a way of luring and distracting the men for more nefarious purposes. Through all of their seduction, it's pretty clear that Klaudia and Gilberte feel scorn at best or hate at worst for them.Then all of them plus the women's brother Goetz and their mother have the most awkward family dinner ever. Farid and Tom FINALLY get the hint that they are in danger, but their escape foiled by Goetz who runs their car off a cliff. They survive, but they wander into a mine shaft full of horrors. Meanwhile, Yasmine and Alex arrive at the inn, but aren't as easy to seduce or as gullible as their friends.

Yasmine is eventually captured by the family who are revealed to be Nazis. Their patriarch, von Geisler, stayed in France after World War II and created his twisted family by capturing children and having his own children to raise as Nazis and to carry on luring and killing people for their possessions and for their meat. He decides to use Yasmine to save them from inbreeding, as many mutated products of it live in the mine shaft. He isn't bothered that she is already pregnant and plans to force her to wed his son Karl who will eventually take his place as patriarch. This neo-Nazi family is the product of France's complicity in their occupation during World War II. Some resisted, but others gladly participated. The focus on moving forward afterwards led to the nation refusing to acknowledge the atrocities committed on French soil. In the present day of the film and of real life France, this also led to conservative, racist ideals to fester over time, leading to the election of President Sarkozy and the horrible treatment of immigrants, especially of Muslims. The Geisler's aren't shown to be odd outliers, but a product of ignored French history left to develop in a remote part of the country.

The Geisler family isn't completely devoid of good people. The most sympathetic member is Eva, a child-like woman underestimated by her family. As a child, she was kidnapped and told that she might be returned to her family if she was obediant. Her own children are the monstrous mutants in the mine shaft, but she loves and cares for them as she would any other child. Her kindness sets her apart from her family even though she is complicit in their crimes. Yasmine and Eva reflect each other in a way, as pregnant mothers doing their best in the midst of criminals and being criminals themselves. Both go to extraordinary lengths for their children even in the face of great opposition and they help each other. As von Geisler resolves to teach Yasmine's child to hate its own history and people (echoing Sarkozy's recent comments of immigrants rejecting their own culture to become truly French), she resolves to make her baby safe and allow her child freedom in the face of a toxic society. It's clear right from the beginning with her treatment at the hospital that if she does return to conventional society, her treatment would not be much better.

Fronter(s) does have familiar elements seen in other films, but the basis in French history and society plus additional elements such as Eva sets it well apart from American horror films. It's a particularly brutal film in the New French Extremity movement and one of the best in my opinion. Alexandra West's book on the subject was instrumental for me to gain historical and social context for this films and others in the movement. French history is much more tumultuous, dark, and bloody than a lot of media will have you believe and it's fascinating that the horror genre is the one to show that dark underbelly.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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