Mr. Robot – Season 3, Episode 5: “eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”

USA’s Mr. Robot
Season 3, Episode 5: “eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”
Directed by Sam Esmail
Written by Kor Adana & Randolph Leon

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “eps3.3_metadata.par2”  – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “eps3.5_kill-process.inc”  – click here
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 11.30.27 AMThe UN is gathering to vote on the Congo. At the same time, Elliot (Rami Malek) is headed back to work at Evil Corp with Angela (Portia Doubleday) watching over him. He gets a call from Darlene (Carly Chaikin), asking to talk to him. We continually hear the crackling of a potential system failure, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) on the verge of breaking through, or maybe he’s the one in charge. Elliott wonders if his “daily program” crashed, if he’s merely going along the routine. Perhaps a “runtime error.” Either way he knows something’s wrong. He’s starting to not be able to distinguish between inner monologue and outer speech.
Meanwhile, the one-shot episode continues; I doubt it’s actual a real single take, rather a bunch of cleverly disguised cuts, which is just as perfect, and requires lots of artistry. So we watch Elliot try going about his day, however, he’s starting to realise his access is locked out. His paranoia starts working on him. Rightfully so, as the Dark Army is doing his thing while his account and employment at E.Corp is being shut down permanently.
Thus begins the intensity. Security comes looking for Elliot while motormouth Samar (Ramy Youssef) distracts them, and our hacker goes about his perpetual search for truth. He has to evade security, act natural. He winds up getting access to a computer again via some Bernie Bro douche, checking on the Dark Army Stage 2 execution. Takes a bit of finesse, though he manages to get himself out of there just barely and into an elevator. Except that’s when dad shows up, ranting and raving. And he still hasn’t finished what he needed to do before getting ejected from the building.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 11.48.48 AMOutside is a massive protest, and Elliot does the only thing he can do: he calls in to tell E.Corp there’s a bomb in their building ready to explode. Darlene’s there, too. She reveals to her brother she’s been working with the FBI. She tells him about everything, that they were onto fsociety, tracking them both for months, all of it. This is fairly shocking to him, obviously. Darlene acts like it was for their safety, that she’s been trying to help. The feeling of betrayal for him is deep, and it’s more unsettling than everything else that’s already going on. His paranoia is turned up past 10 at this point. This is when he finds out Angela’s been manipulating him, using Mr. Robot to her advantage. He remembers his brief waking moment with Angela and Tyrell.
Who can he trust anymore?
Soon from the crowd of protesters a bottle is tossed at the cops, tear gas is released, and a full fledged riot commences. Masked protesters invade Evil Corp, spray painting, destroying anything on which they can lay their hands. Employees are accosted and made to swipe the masked vigilantes upstairs through the elevator, where they’ll unleash further chaos. The whole play is tagged, smashed, turned upside down.
Angela gets a call from Irving (Bobby Cannavale); they’ve started the riot as a “distraction,” apparently. This also involves Elliot putting into place their contingency plan. Ah, how things have changed. Angela gets a package at the desk, which contains all the information the hacker will need to implement the plan necessary for the Dark Army. So while the hallways are utter chaos, she has to go looking for her friend, or her tool, as far as it looks from her perspective. Things get sticky once she runs into security, they see some of the things when she drops her package. She barely gets away after the guy’s beat down brutally by protesters.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 11.51.40 AMAngela makes it into a server room, attempting to hook up a hard drive. She winds up running into another woman, who’s suspicious of why she’s there. She claims to have been doing a physical security audit. They’re interrupted by more violence. Angela gets a bit of second hand mace, though not enough to blind her. She gets back to the hard drive, doing the work herself in lieu of finding Elliot amongst all the madness.
She finishes up, but now she has to get out of there in one piece. She finds one of the fsociety masks, so she uses it to her advantage, disguising herself for when she comes across more of the protesters. She gets to an elevator, a way out. But she lets Irving know a woman saw her, that she did the hacking herself. He’s not entirely thrilled. Although Stage 2 is going ahead as planned, all is right for the Dark Army right now. When Angela gets back to her office, she finds Elliot waiting, wanting answers.
Simultaneously, China’s been given the vote to annex the Congo via the UN.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.09.03 PMSam Esmail continually pushes the envelope, in many ways. This series is one of the greatest, it’ll go down with the best in the history of TV. No doubt.
“eps3.5_kill-process.inc” is next week.

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SHOT CALLER’s Ugly Truth of Incarceration & the Violent Transformation of the Male Psyche

Shot Caller. 2017. Directed & Written by Ric Roman Waugh.
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jon Bernthal, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Michael Landes, Jeffrey Donovan, Benjamin Bratt, Emory Cohen, Holt McCallany, & Chris Browning.
Bold Films/DirecTV/Participant Media/Relativity Media
Rated R. 121 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★
Shot Caller PosterRic Roman Waugh’s Felon is honestly one of the more surprising crime-thrillers since 2000, because it wasn’t a film I expected to find fascinating. It seemed the regular, same old crime fare to which we’ve become accustomed over the years. But it blew me out of the water, from Val Kilmer’s fine tuned performance to Stephen Dorff playing the best character he’s played in a long time.
Now he’s given us another chapter in his prison-related saga: Shot Caller. On the surface it, again, feels like something we’ve seen before, time and time again. Yet there’s a number of things different about this film from other prison pictures, even the previous Felon. Instead of a pointless journey into the prison system, Waugh offers us a poignant, if not violent and disturbing account of how normal people go from normal to indoctrinated into a gang’s lifestyle.
At a point in time where so many white Americans feel energised by hatred, specifically in terms of race, Shot Caller presents a vision of the way in which some people get caught up in the gang world by mere coincidence. The film doesn’t seek to normalise hatred, in fact it goes to good length in trying to present to us a situation where a family man becomes a monster moulded by the prison system, its desperate, inescapable limitations, and the lack of choices for men inside those walls who aren’t hardened criminals. Yet.
Shot Caller 1The most immediate thing is the desperation of the non-criminal entering into prison, shown in such a subtle and terrifying manner. Part of this – a huge part – is the contained, subdued performance of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whose character Jacob feels incredibly real. For instance, his first night and first morning in jail are all played out across his face, as behind him in another bunk a new inmate who came in with him is gang raped by other prisoners, and he quietly acknowledges to himself the hideous realities of living in prison. As if to say: I accept this, and today I’ll start to change. Thus begins the transformation of a normal person into a prisoner and criminal.
Waugh’s method of storytelling here is powerful, passing from present day up through to Jacob’s incarceration and the process by which he becomes indoctrinated into the gang life in jail. Then we go through to another arrest, which takes Jacob back inside prison. We watch, effectively, a man’s life spiral out of control. Tragically, we can also see the process as a whole, how it happens to many men who’ve made a horrible mistake for which they’re jailed, then how they go into prison only to be forced to choose the only life left available to them that doesn’t involve daily beatings and nightly gang rapes while even the guards can be paid off to turn a blind eye. The way Waugh shows us and tells us the story allows for maximum effect, as we start out with the already hardened Jacob and backpedal as we simultaneously move forward to see, to understand how it came to this moment.
Shot Caller 2It’s the humanity in Jacob that offers us a better look at prison life than something less nuanced, or say listening to Fox News constantly or any other similar leaning publication that treats crime and criminals as a monolith. Waugh writes about the unfortunate, desperate lure of the criminal lifestyle in jail, how it doesn’t pull EVERYONE in by virtue of any weakness in themselves. Rather it can act as a spinning whirlpool, sucking people into its wake, leaving no other choice but to become part of it to ensure survival and not die a brutal death, in turn sucking others into its force, too.
Bottles: “And then a place like this forces us to become warriors or victims. Nothing in between can exist here.”
Prisons, for those who end up there in a cruel twist of fate or by their own mistakes as opposed to criminals lacking any sense of morality, are places of desperation, a place with a dearth of options where much of what goes against regular morality is often the last vestige of the prisoner, their sole remaining option in a hellish place. Jacob’s journey is the epitome of what it’s like for a normal person to experience a sudden change in standing. He was a man who had too many drinks, accidentally ran a red light and killed his best friend in a car accident, and this one moment ends up defining the rest of existence, shaping him, his family, and the people around him.
Shot Caller is a testament to how we as a society have allowed prison to become a place where someone who makes a mistake, even if it’s a fatal one, can’t just serve their time as the law states, but instead a place where this man is no longer allowed middle ground: he must either be penitent through abuse and torture via other inmates, or he must relinquish penitence in lieu of day-to-day survival at the additional cost of his morality. The only bit of humanity Jacob actually retains involves his refusal to fall into the white supremacy of the gang he rides with in prison, though it doesn’t excuse his loss of conscience; all else is permanently lost.
Shot Caller 3A great, shattering concept in Shot Caller is the double-edged sword going into prison, for a man such as Jacob. He must become a monster in order to live, which further requires he hold his family at arm’s length, if not further. So much so that even when free, out in the world, he still exists in a cage, in a prison not of his own making but one that’s inevitable due to the state of correctional institutions in America.
Most importantly, Waugh is all but shouting at society, wondering how we can all allow such places to exist where men – often young men – are sent to choose the protection of a gang, shoving balloons of heroin in their rectum over being raped in the night, throat cut as they sleep, who knows what else. Moreover, this calls into question our own morality, a society’s sense of morals, as well as what we truly believe to be the function of the prison: is it really a place for penitence, or more just a warehouse of meat where men are sent to either live as beasts or die, sometimes experiencing a spiritual death full of abuse and rape and never ending violence?
Prison flicks are a dime a dozen. This is one of the best prison thrillers post-2000. Much as I loved Waugh’s Felon, this one takes it up a notch. Best of all is that Shot Caller contains great performances, an excellent score, and a message that speaks volumes, particularly in an era where we need to both be critical of white supremacy but also understand how SOME (not saying it’s a huge portion; most racists are utter scum) people wind up in an ugly life because of a lack of choices.
And while Waugh’s film focuses on a white protagonist, we could use more films like this for all races. A parallel to this for black culture is Menace II Society, which illustrated the dangerous life of young African-American men in Los Angeles living the gang lifestyle, simultaneously not judging, showing us HOW and WHY things are like that; not simply that they are, something people know well enough already. These movies don’t glorify prison, nor do they glorify gangs. We need less action trying to use guns and gangsters and prison to be edgy, more stuff like Menace II Society and now Shot Caller. Both use all these elements to try getting at the core of what crime and prison do to people, how they do it, and why, to get at an understanding that can help us grow, perhaps if anything it can aid us in coping as a society until we figure out the right way to do things.
That’s what art is all about.

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dog”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 3
: “The Dog”
Directed by Adam Davidson (Hell on WheelsThe FollowingLow Winter Sun)
Written by Jack LoGiudice (Sons of AnarchyThe Walking Dead)

* For a review of the next episode, “Not Fade Away” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode “So Close, Yet So Far” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.05.51 PMAt the beginning of the latest episode, “The Dog”, we see the big family still divided across the city.
While Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), his ex-wife Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and the Salazars – Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), Daniel (Rubén Blades), and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) – are all holed up in the little barber shop owned by Daniel, a riot is going down fiercely in the streets. After a few minutes they’re forced out of the shop and into the street, as a fire next door begins to make the wall literally bubble.
Not just riots are happening; the apocalypse is nigh!
Chris witnesses a person zombified, biting into the neck of another person; in fact, they’re police officers, most likely SWAT Team members. The whole city of Los Angeles, at least that area anyways, looks to be in total panic mode, full-on mayhem.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.06.34 PMMeanwhile, back at home, safe and sound, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) is taking care of her junkie son Nick (Frank Dillane). The two of them, plus Madison’s daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), play a board game.
Great juxtaposition of the two family units, each in their own space – one fighting to survive in the streets, the other in a nice, quaint little living room playing a board game. I also feel like there’s a larger statement in this segment. For instance, the Clarks are all white, and then there’s Travis, his ex-wife, and the Salazars who are all of different ethnicities. While the white people are all cozy in their houses, it’s everyone else left in the streets – at the mercy of police and zombies. I don’t know, perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, or a pile of lint, but I honestly think there’s a bit of George A. Romero political zombietary dropped in amongst it all. That’s the great part about art in any form: we’re all able to draw out what we want from the themes and events within it. I’m probably way off base from the writing, it’s still fun to theorize.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.09.23 PMAn amazing sequence is in this first 10-12 minutes. When Travis leads his group out of the downtown area riots in the truck. The way it’s filmed is heavy, man. The score, the shots themselves, they all amount to a feeling of great unease. Travis and his son Chris look out the window of their truck, as the Salazars and Liza sit in the pan: chaos is erupting, the hospital is overrun with police and at least ONE zombie – no doubt lots more – and an excellent slow motion shot sees an officer running with an automatic rifle in hand. There’s just a real sense of gravitas to everything happening. Even Travis knows it’s more than simply riots; we, the audience, know far more. So in both ways this scene cuts deep, in an immediate sense because we’re watching society begin to breakdown as the zombie outbreak begins so quickly.
Furthermore, once they get out of the populated area up on this hill, Travis and Chris watch through the truck’s windows and we can see in the reflection of the glass city lights are beginning to shut down, one section at a time, Los Angeles descending into a soon to be perpetual darkness.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.10.46 PMOnce Travis and his group arrive back to find Madison and the kids, there’s trouble.
A zombified neighbour wanders into the Clark house, killing and eating the family dog. Out looking for a shotgun at another neighbour’s house, Madison isn’t able to warn Travis before he heads inside. ZOMBIE ATTACK! Finally we’re seeing another zombie on human sequence. This time it’s more intense than Madison’s encounter with her co-worker.
Daniel Salazar intervenes on Travis’ behalf by shotgunning the zombie neighbour in the face. SUCH GNARLY EFFECTS! The first shotgun blast is savage. Then Daniel takes another pop shot and the head goes BAM; nevermore. Really wild makeup effects which I loved.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.12.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.12.43 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.12.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.12.56 PMThere’s some family drama happening with everyone now housed temporarily under the Clark roof. First it starts with Chris trying to help Alicia, but getting a hard elbow in the nose. This puts Chris and his father in a room together for a few moments, as they talk a little about the infection; mostly, Travis tries to reassure his son that everything will be all right. Moreover, Travis has obviously got things a bit rough with two wives in one place, which – regardless of the circumstances it being the end of the world outside and all – cannot be easy, it’s obviously a wound still partly open for some of them.
The Salazars are also at odds. Daniel doesn’t want to be in someone else’s debt at a time such as it is in Los Angeles. But clearly it’s also not a time to be alone, cast away from society or people of any kind. Everybody needs somebody (some time). The Salazar women feel a little differently, however, I get the impression Daniel is only looking out for his loved ones; he strikes me as a very family centric man and he’s not about to make anything worse than it is for his own family by siding with the wrong people. I’m sure as time goes by, he and Travis might find a bit of common ground, a mutual understanding on which they might stand together. Eventually.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.14.07 PMDaniel and Travis still have a way to go. The old guy is only trying to keep everyone safe, but Travis has a problem with Daniel showing Chris how to use a shotgun. Mainly, I think ol’ Mr. Salazar is a realist. He knows something is wrong, he’s seen some things in his life, and the guy just wants to be prepared; he wants, needs, everyone else to do the same. It’s telling when he sees Travis and Madison at the fence – Travis talks Madison out of killing her zombie neighbour-friend Susan Tran (Cici Lau), Daniel only says to himself “Weak” as they walk away. So it’s obvious he has got the realism hat on while others are having a harder time adjusting.
Even further than that, the Salazars opt not to go with the Clark-Manawa-Ortiz brigade, as Daniel tells his daughter “good people are the first to die“.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.13.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.13.57 PMThe most intense sequence of “The Dog”, though, has got to be when Patrick Tran (Jim Lau) comes home to his wife Susan. Just as he’s about to grab her in a hug, as she shuffles zombi-ly towards her husband, some National Guardsmen blow a little hole right through dead Susan’s head. I thought for sure there’d be a big zombie chase sequence or simply a blood and gore fest maybe, with a couple deaths. Instead, “The Dog” sets up the next episode with the National Guard moving in on the whole neighbourhood and, at least for the time being, the Clarks, Salazars, and the Manawa-Ortiz clan are safe. Or are they? Who knows exactly what will happen.
As Travis says “It’s gonna get better now” and the episode fades out with a slightly optimistic yet haunting score overtop, it’s hard to tell exactly how things will go immediately. Of course, we know how they’ll start to go on down the line.
But just before the cut to black happens, Daniel says to his wife, while watching the National Guard move through a house next door: “It’s already too late
Very foreboding finish!
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.14.30 PMCan’t wait for the next episode, “Not Fade Away”. People keep saying the shows is boring, but it isn’t to me. Others expected full-on mayhem and madness. It’s not that type of series! Not yet anyways. The world of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and yes Dave Erickson, has sprung to life in a new, unexpected way in this series which leads us into where original show The Walking Dead has already taken us. So for those who don’t enjoy, here’s a tip: stop watching. The series will do just fine without you.
Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.14.58 PMFor the rest, stay tuned! I’ll be back again next week with another review. Hope to see more and more craziness, now with the National Guard in the mix and the government bearing down on Los Angeles I know there’s going to be something intense and exciting happening in “Not Fade Away”. That episode, by the way, is directed by Kari Skogland whose television work includes Vikings, a 6th season episode of The Walking Dead, the fifth episode of Kurt Sutter’s new series The Bastard Executioner, The KillingThe BorgiasBoardwalk Empire; Skogland’s film credits include the excellent Fifty Dead Men Walking and an adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, among others. Looking forward to her at the helm of this next episode, should be fun.

Nazi Eugenics Family Horror in Frontier(s)

Frontier(s). 2007. Directed & Written by Xavier Gens.
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, and Jean-Pierre Jorris. Cartel Productions.
Rated NC-17. 108 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
frontier(s)-(2007) I’m a fan of Xavier Gens. Aside from Hitman, I think what I’ve seen of his filmography has been pretty spectacular. This was the first movie I’d seen directed by him, Frontier(s), and though some say it’s merely a Texas Chain Saw Massacre rip-off except in French, I thought it was a pretty good horror. An unsettling piece of work. So in an effort to watch more of his films, I waited and waited after hearing about The Divide until finally it came out; I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. That’s a completely different horror-thriller than this beast, but great in its own right; a devastatingly intense, emotional film about life after an epidemic breaks out and a city goes underground essentially. Then his segment “X is for XXL” in The ABCs of Death is fantastically grim, one of the best short horror films I’ve ever seen honestly.
But overall, I do feel that Frontier(s) is probably my favourite. There’s a familiarity about the story in this movie, definitely harkening back to Tobe Hooper’s indie horror masterpiece, but something about is different. It isn’t simply the plot which makes things different, I do find a genuine atmosphere and tone about Gens’ work here. In opposition to many other films trying to riff off TCMFrontier(s) uses the basics of that setup in order to explore an entirely different plot. Although you might see bits where it feels as if Hooper is being carbon copied, Xavier Gens only uses that as influence, perhaps a scene or two of homage. Apart from that, his film is a horrific story about desperation, family, and the will to survive.
Frontiers1-720x405
Frontier(s) begins with a new French president being elected into the office of France; he is a right-wing extreme type. A group of thieves – Alex (Aurélien Wiik), Tom (David Saracino), Farid (Chems Dahmani), Yasmine (Karine Testa) who is with child, and her brother Sami (Adel Bencherif) – use the riots which have erupted in Paris due to the new president as a cover for a robbery. When Sami is shot, the group splits up so that one can take him to the hospital. They agree to meat at an inn near the border.
When Tom and Farid take all the money and head to the inn, they meet innkeepers Gilberte (Estelle Lefébure) and Klaudia (Amélie Daure) who are fairly seductive. Things seem to be going pretty well at first, as the boys have a little fun in one of the rooms with the women. But soon it becomes clear the family running the inn are a little more than xenophobic. First, their apprehension towards Farid after he mentions he is Muslim speaks volumes. Although, racism is the least of Farid and Tom’s worries. Violence breaks out between the two men and two of the other psychopathic innkeepers, Goetz (Samuel Le Bihan) and Karl (Patrick Ligardes).
Once Alex and Yasmine arrive things get even worse. If that’s possible.
It’s when the family patriarch appears, Von Geisler (Jean-Pierre Jorris), the remaining guests come to understand definitively something is not right at the inn.
What follows is a descent into terror at the hands of a neo-Nazi family, hellbent on keeping the bloodline pure. Ironically enough, though, Yasmine – not caucasian by any means – is their choice to help extend the family and provide another male heir. Seems even the white supremacists throw their beliefs out the window sometimes, too. Sadly and unfortunately for Yasmine, this will lead to horrific consequences which she’ll somehow have to try and live through.
Frontiere-8504-4ee30da55e73d66bf20035c5-1323744213As I said before, no doubt you’ll find some similarities between Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Frontier(s). That being said, I think there’s a grandiosity to the family in this film that simply isn’t there with Leatherface and his family of mad cannibalistic Texans. Not saying I like this better, I don’t; TCM is one of my personal favourites, always has been, always will be. Regardless, I still do love this movie.
The family here seems to be like a small unit at first. However, it’s once the film progresses you see there’s a true clan. I enjoy the way it’s revealed as well, the extent of the family.
First, we get a glimpse around 40 minutes in or so, as Tom and Farid have driven into a massive pit, crashing the car and nearly killing themselves; they wander and find a possible way out, crawling through a tight tunnel-like hole, but come across strange creatures.
Later on, we figure out exactly what the creatures are, how they got there, which all comes to bear on the plot of the family. It’s pretty disturbing.

Something that always makes me enjoy a film, particularly horror, is if the atmosphere and tone are set correctly. As well as if they hold up throughout an entire film. Gens does well creating a tense atmosphere. The whole film has a dark, shady quality throughout every scene, almost as if a layer of fog sits over each frame. Furthermore, this helps to set a grim tone. You expect only bad things to happen, no matter how hard you hope for these people to make it out, no matter how badly you them to succeed and break away from this mad, Nazi family, there’s no hope anywhere. Not a bit.
Even more than the the shots themselves, many of which are intense, the film’s colour palette is incredible. That grim tone I mentioned is made even more nasty in that the whole movie looks washed out in grey. Gens achieves the foggy look with a colour scheme that isn’t only in the frames, the characters are all dressed in very drag colours for the most part, so other than a few points – particularly with BLOOD – every single shot looks hopeless; dreadful, in a good sense. That’s ultimately how any film can hope to achieve an aesthetic which adds to the film’s atmosphere and helps to create a sustainable tone to terrify its audience – through the use of colour, camerawork, and an overall compound of visual aspects to sort of setup a universe within the film itself.
Frontiers-Szenenbild-4One thing I found didn’t really impress me at all about Frontier(s) was the score. I think had someone composed a more unsettling bit of work in many of the scenes, I’d lift this movie even higher in my rankings than it already is now. A great score can take a mediocre movie and make it pretty damn good. Lacking here is such a score. If anything about Frontier(s) is derivative, it’s the music. There’s a part right before Alex and Yasmine experience the horror of the Nazi inn, full force, when the music sounds like a cheap rip-off of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score and it actually almost made me laugh.
As far as the sound design, I think a great job was done. Mostly my problem is with the music itself. There are a lot of excellently ominous background noises happening, especially in the big animal factory or whatever you want to call it; pigs making noise, chains rattling, and a foreboding, shadowy ambience around it all. If the score itself were something better, this movie would honestly impress me far more than it does. Not to say it isn’t impressive, that’s simply an aspect I think would’ve lifted this above an already great horror to near masterpiece.

For any of the hardcore horror hounds who need that good ole blood and gore, there’s certainly no shortage when it comes to Frontier(s). While it’s not the most savage thing I’ve ever seen, there are plenty of awesomely horrific moments that will tickle that horror bone. Even just the filthy feel of so many scenes is enough to put you in that terrorized headspace. Once the remaining guests at the inn are divided up in that animal factory – that’s just what I’m calling it now, for your information – things get nasty. You really feel bad for these characters, as they’ve each got to deal with their separate fates. Watching Yasmine and Alex roll around in the mud of one of those pig pens is already bad enough.
But it’s the gory bits that are worth the price of admission here. Gens gives us enough blood to satisfy the urge. As the film wears on, more people get maimed, more people die. It’s the ending which really delivers on this end, as Yasmine is forced to fight for her life in order to try and find way off that farm and back to real life, out there somewhere. A slick look to the film, Gens makes the savagery look gorgeous in a twisted way. But make no mistake about it, there is horror and the gore is present!

One huge thing I love about the New French Extremity movement, and French horror in general as of late, is the fact many of their films end up with strong female characters. Some times they are heroes, other times more like the “final girl” trope. However, Yasmine in Frontier(s) relies on no man to save her, she fights and claws her way from out of the Nazi inn, full of blood and viscera by the time she does, and it’s refreshing. Normally we have to see the female character raped and violated, then half the time a man runs in to save her; here, most of any real atrocities she faces are not shown, and there’s no need for anyone else to save Yasmine, she is no damsel in distress. Part of why I love this movie and why it isn’t simply a rip-off of previous horror. This is fresh in its own ways, of which a strong female lead is one.
still-of-karina-testa-in-frontier(s)-(2007)-large-pictureThere’s no way I can give Frontier(s) any less than 4 stars. I actually wanted to give it a half star more, but I think the score disappointed me enough that I felt it took something away from what could’ve been accomplished. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much. This is still a totally solid, effective horror. It follows in much the same vein as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, yet it doesn’t aim to repeat all the same moves, and it doesn’t try to carbon copy the characters or events. Xavier Gens comes up with an interesting new plot to add with a familiar story. While it might feel we’re seeing something that’s been done before, Gens gives us a fresh look at the family of killers sub-genre so often implemented in horror. Here it’s not only a crazed family of murderers, they also happen to be Nazis – upholders of racial purity. So there’s something extremely dark and eerie about the fact this family takes Yasmine as the new ‘bride’; haunts me to this day. There’s also the fact Yasmine is pregnant from the beginning, so this plays into the Nazi family plans later in the film. Lots of things going on behind the curtain.
I always recommend Gens’ Frontier(s) as a solid modern horror that has homages of older classics, but is all very much its own bouquet of horrors. If you want something intense, disturbing, and full of nasty blood and gore, you could do a lot worse than see this one.