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Midnight Madness: Frontière(s)

TIFF continues to chug along, heading into its first weekend - traditionally the home of the glitz, the glam, and the high profile Hollywood crap. As usual, Midnight Madness provides the antidote, with the premiere of Xavier Gens' degenerate riot, Frontière(s).

After a five-film day (I even snuck away from the fest for a couple of hours to catch Shoot 'Em Up), the adrenaline rush of Frontière(s) was exactly what I needed. Beware the faint of heart, however: this sucker's about as gruesome as Midnight programming ever gets.

Not unlike last year's Midnight closer, Sheitan, Frontière(s) is about a group of dipshit French kids (okay, this time they're actually criminals on the run from a shooting spree gone bad in the city) who travel out to the countryside, only to be set upon by a group of lunatic backwater hicks. This time, the hicks in question are neo-Nazis, and the equivalent of Vincent Cassel's lead Sheitan role is taken on by his Pacte des Loups counterpart, Samuel le Bihan. Score one for Frontière(s): I'll follow le Bihan anywhere.

What follows is an orgy of violence that ranks among the highest echelon of any Midnight Madness screening I've ever attended. The good news is, newbie director Xavier Gens has enough camera-sense (and, more importantly, edit-sense) to keep the visuals moving with appreciable (if jarring) fluidity. Better news, Gens is one sick bastard: the brutality set pieces in this thing play like someone decided that the feed-Gary-Oldman-to-the-pigs scene in Hannibal was just too goddamned tame.

The sole, significant thread that keeps Frontière(s) from de-evolving into the kind of meaningless torture porn that has beset Hollywood since the ascendance of Eli Roth is the fact that, in a rarity for the genre, the women are neither fetish objects nor rescue bait, but full-on participants in the Darwinian struggle that the film eventually becomes.

Frontière(s) is so in-your-face brutal that by its conclusion, you feel like every raw emotion in the human catalogue has been bled through every pore on your body. It's a thoroughly satisfying horror experience.

Frontière(s) re-screens this Sunday at 3:30 at the Scotiabank Theatre, and next Friday at the Varsity.


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