Friday, April 11, 2008

ON DVD : BORDERLAND

It would be easy to dismiss the annual 8 Films To Die For DVD series as just another Showtime Masters of Horror dump heap, yet in 2006 the program produced two pretty-above average films: The Abandoned (another example that the future of horror may reside in Spain...) and Takashi Shimizu's Reincarnation. True, the series primarily serves as yet another cash generator for Lionsgate - walk down the DVD Horror aisle at Best Buy and see the stocked shelves - but if film fans can get some art out of it, now and then, it could be a win-win situation for years to come.

So... how is the class of 2007 faring thus far? Well, Borderland was # 1 of the 8 that I plan to see, and if it's supposed to serve as some kind of sign, then it's a no good, very bad, terrible, DO NOT ENTER sign!

Borderland is based on the late 80's satanic-cult killings of Adolfo Constanzo and his gang, in Matamoros, that blew-up stateside when a young University of Texas college student was found dismembered and buried at a ranch with 11 other victims. The details of the deaths are grueling and grisly, and it is in these accounts taken from the confessions of Constazo's gang, that filmmaker Zev Berman finds inspiration to pen his grandest guinol of scenes.


But like the recent French horror film Them, this brings into question the ethical judgement behind using gruesome real-life tragedy to drive a film. We're not talking "true story" as in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Amityville Horror, no, the story behind Bordlerland is factually true.

What is worse:
the recent rolling tide of horror remakes, or filmheads that become so bereft of original ideas that they resort to true accounts of brutality in order to frighten the audience? (I use the term "frighten" loosely. There is nothing in Borderland that makes you curl up and gasp... unless you count yawns as gasps.)

Unlike the recent set-in-Mexico gore film, The Ruins, you won't take nary a cheap gooey thrill from Borderland. Its not just punishing in its trauma scenes, but in the exposition that sleeps in between the blood lust. One extended sequence follows the boys out on the town after dropping LSD. Apparently the camera man took some too, because the next five minutes is shot with blurred lines and purposeful mis-dubbings. With the hypersaturated photography, this is the one time where a critic could lay down a "It's like Tony Scott on acid!" missive and literally mean it.

Rider Strong is in Borderland. Sean Astin is too. You gotta feel for the guy. He plays a 18-wheeling serial killer from "San Antone". I mean, why!?! Did he blow all the money he made from LOTR?!? Or did he really think he was making a good career choice here? Now, that is scary.

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