Written by: TheFecalKid
A few weeks back, I reviewed a little film called Inside - the newest addition to a wave of French horror films which have been making a huge splash among die hard horror fans. Frontier(s) first came on the scene at last year's Toronto film festival, and did so well that it is receiving another theatrical, albeit limited, release just days before its DVD release. It is being released by After Dark Films which, while being very hit-or-miss, have given us a few gems by a lot of first time directors. I have no idea if Hitman was successful or not, but writer/director Xavier Gens made this indie horror flick long before he ever saw the mainstream spotlight, and as it would seem he definitely has a knack for making a very brutal and fun horror film.
Amidst a city wide riot, a small band of thieves - led by the pregnant Yasmine (Karina Testa) and her boyfriend Alex (Aurelien Wiik) - must get out of the city and head across the border to evade capture. They split up into two groups, one being Alex and Yasmine, the other being Farid (Chems Dahmani) and Tom (David Saracino), with the latter deciding to wait for their companions at a small motel a few miles from the border. Upon arrival they are offered nothing but sex and booze from the two bartenders, which they accept with little convincing from the two ladies. Things quickly take a turn for the worst however, as their hospitable hosts, led by the massive Goetz (Samuel Le Bihan) violently attack them after their meal. Shortly afterwards, Alex and Yasmine arrive at the motel where they're told their friends went to another motel because there aren't any available rooms. Considering there are no cars outside, they are understandably confused, but accept a ride from the motel employees to what they assume is the other motel. They couldn't be more wrong. What follows is a gruesome journey full of torture, blood, and oddly enough a few good laughs.
When it comes to brutal, in-your-face, survival horror films, it seems that the French have the market cornered. When Haute Tension came out a few years back, it took horror fans by surprise at just how visceral and dark it was. I can speak for more than just myself when I say it lived up to my expectations, and greatly surpassed them. The same can be said for this film, which completely blew me away. While being a mix-up of several different genres, as well as paying homage to some of the classics as well as some newer films, Hostel and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being a large influence, this movie is a survival flick, plain and simple.
Karina Testa ranks up there as one of the best leading ladies I've seen in some time. The horrific experience she goes through changes her character drastically, and the way she develops her character then completely changes for the third act of the film was fantastic. Another standout performance was carried out by Samuel Le Bihan, who some of you may recognize from The Brotherhood of the Wolf. He barely had to say a word, as his presence alone was enough to chill you to the bone. His role as the soldier for the family was probably the most important, even though I'm not very familiar with his body of work, after seeing him in this, I couldn't think of another person who could pull the role off as well with so little dialogue, and what did exist was made up of a lot of growls and roars.
This movie is mostly being hailed for the gore and gross-out factor. I would have to disagree with this, as there isn't a whole lot of gore to be found. Maybe it's because I've grown immune to this sort of thing, but there were very few "gross-out" moments, and the gore was used only for realism and to keep the pace of the story. That is to say, after a certain point, there had to be a certain amount of killings and gore, otherwise there would be no movie. I'm not one for spoilers, but there is a scene in particular where one of the young thieves, the one I was hoping made it, no less, is boiled alive inside a small chamber. The progression of this scene was great, and when the door finally opened up and he spilled across the floor, I loved how gooey and truly disgusting he looked.
Even after all this praise, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't tackle the obvious problem with this movie. A group of young adults stumbles across a kind of backwoods family, insults them, then are tortured and butchered. Not exactly the freshest storyline ever created. For anyone who's seen Blood Feast, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, Hostel or a dozen others, you know exactly who will live, who will die, and what to expect more or less. So essentially, it is up to the actors, the special effects, and the camera work to pull this movie off. Why would anyone pick this off the shelf over such classics as Blood Feast and TCM? Because of the actors, special effects and camera work. Xavier Gens is a newcomer, but he has certainly cut his teeth with this picture. I can only hope that he strays away from the Hollywood scene - honestly, who thinks Hitman looks good? - and starts making more movies like this. I will watch each and everyone of them. 10/10