Discovering the New French Extremity
As a passionate horror movie enthusiast, I fondly recall my college days when I took a class that focused entirely on horror films. It was during this time that I discovered giallo with Deep Red (1975), reaffirmed my love for zombies with Night of the Living Dead (1968), and developed a newfound respect for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). But what truly captivated me was the New French Extremity.
Our professor introduced us to this fascinating movement by showing us two movies: Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) and Xavier Gens’s Frontier(s). The latter quickly became my favorite film of the New French Extremity.
Frontier(s): A Glimpse into a Disturbing World
Set amidst the pandemonium of riots following the rise of a far-right candidate to the French presidency, Frontier(s) follows five Muslim Parisians who commit a robbery to escape the chaos. When things go awry, they flee to the countryside, only to find themselves in the clutches of a sadistic family of inbred Nazis.
The New French Extremity is a movement that exposes the deep-seated issues festering beneath France’s fashionable image. The films in this genre reveal the incongruities between France’s cultural and historical identities, as well as the growing strain of far-right extremism that has spread across the globe.
Comparisons to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The similarities between Frontier(s) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are striking. Both films feature extreme physical brutality, psychological torment, and a close-knit family of deranged killers. Gens’s film also juxtaposes the idyllic French countryside with the horrific monstrosities that lurk within, shattering the illusion of a utopian France.
A Brutal and Unrelenting Experience
Frontier(s) is a film that does not shy away from its gruesome nature. The sheer amount of carnage unleashed throughout its 108-minute runtime is staggering. Gens’s penchant for human misery is showcased through some of the most horrific spectacles ever committed to screen, making this film a truly visceral experience.
However, it is important to note that Frontier(s) does not belong to the American-produced “torture porn” genre. While both share a fervency for gore, the New French Extremity is an introspective expression of the ugliness that already exists within France, whereas “torture porn” is a xenophobic reaction by Americans against a world they perceive as hostile.
A Dark Lens on Our World
To me, Frontier(s) represents the epitome of the New French Extremity and the broader movement of “extreme” European horror cinema. Visceral, violent, and thoroughly nasty, this film is not for the faint of heart. However, those who can stomach its brutal nature will discover a dark lens through which we can view the then and present moments of our rapidly regressing world, making films like Green Room (2015) seem tame in comparison.