France in recent years has seen something of a resurgence in the mainstreaming of horror cinema kicked off in great style back in 2003 with Alexandre Aja's stunning shocker 'Haute Tension' (released here in the UK as 'Switchblade Romance') right through to more recent brutal delights such as Bustillo and Maury's 'À l'intérieur' (aka 'Inside') so with the hotly anticipated uncut release in the UK of Xavier Gens splatter opus 'Frontier(s)' are we to expect yet more gallic delights?

The film opens with the backdrop of rioting in Paris following recent government elections as a team of hapless young Parisians try to make good their escape following a botched robbery; instead of finding a distracted police force they actually find they're in fact slightly more trigger itchy than usual thanks to the rioting leading to one of the group being left for dead as the rest flee for safety in the surrounding countryside.

They soon find themselves checking in to a desolate farmhouse guesthouse where two of the lesser savvy young Parisian party don't question for a moment the fact that they've barely checked in and they're already humping two of the slacker female members of staff whilst a drooling brute loiters outside waiting to pounce. So no sympathy to be expected when both lads end up at the wrong end of a machete soon after.

But it is the two remaining failed crooks you may perhaps feel for as when they are soon imprisoned by their hick hosts we're submerged into their very visceral misery as we soon discover that 'mein hosts' are actually an intently depraved gaggle of Nazi cannibals with an eye not just for fresh meat but for someone to help continue the family line…not so good for only female gang member Yasmine when she's selected for that less than romantic role.

'Frontier(s)' is a very slick high end exploitation shocker with an endless catalogue of bloody gore that should appease most splatter fans but will it sate the hardened horror aficionado looking for something more? Perhaps not. Whilst the film looks stunning it also falls victim to being the grand sum total of a multitude of plagiarized set pieces of other genre moments.

Simply the film takes a pinch of Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw, then throws in a pinch of more recent fare such as The Descent and countless survival horror yawners from Hostel on to give you stacks of (albeit bloody) style but very little substance. Of course, if you're watching for the gore you'll be somewhat forgiving and the film does indeed rise above the Hostel cycle with the amusing Nazi edge and great splatter set pieces…well who could resist any film that includes the line "fetch the pincers": guaranteed to have any viewer reaching to flinching in anticipation!

If you're looking though for another 'Switchblade Romance' though you'll be sorely disappointed (something that rings true as the trailer for Switchblade unrolls on this release before the main feature, perhaps a more gratifying recommendation from Optimum's sterling horror line).

This release from Optimum, whilst of a general quality standard, is not quite of the special edition stakes of their recent fare (their double disc release of 'Diary of the Dead' is perhaps one of this years highlights). The anamorphic widescreen image is unsurprisingly pin sharp throughout and the original French 5.1 surround audio is clear and reasonably dynamic though not overly aggressive with good clear English subtitles throughout.

Extras though are quite thin on the ground though are still quite enjoyable kicking off with a 15 minute collection of on-set footage; not as such a fully formed behind the scenes documentary but for budding filmmakers an interesting fly on the wall on how many of the splatter setpieces were created. Also included is the films full length trailer alongside a collection of short teaser trailers prepared for it's release in the home market which indicates interestingly the rise in interest in native horror cinema in France (now if only British genre cinema could reach such levels theatrically once again!)

Whilst not the strongest French genre fare we've seen in recent years, Xavier Gens splatter opus 'Frontier(s)' is still more entertaining than most of the Hostel inspired torture horror fare of late and this release from Optimum is a similarly solid package. Worth a rental for the Saturday night pizza and beer fun…though watch out for those pincers!!

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Optimum Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review