Sunday, October 17, 2010

Borderland (2007)

When first reading the caption ‘Inspired by a True Story’ I invariably recoil. Do we have on our hands another Texas Chainsaw Massacre replica trying to emulate the success of that franchise? Or perhaps this is just another torture-porn outing with a series of events so loosely resembling the original crime its entire story is nothing more than a fictitious construct? Initially, that was my first impression of Borderland … a sordid tale set on the fringe of Mexico.

If there was any question regarding the film-territory we inhabit, the opening sequence quells all doubts in a hurry as two Mexican police officers find themselves in the hands of a drug-cartel that applies human sacrifice to please deities and thus remain anonymous from enemies. It sounds far-fetched ... but the tone and mood of Borderland enables the scenario to somehow be plausible. None of this is for the squeamish, and although we have a sinister world very Tarantino/Rodriguez on offer, I had the feeling even those icons would be applauding this.

Next, we cut to the main-players and inevitable future victims of the blood-cult: Ed, Phil, and Henry – three arrogant and ambitious American’s celebrating graduation. The boys have decided that before college they’re going experience freedom and liberty as defined by those living south of the border. At first reluctant, Ed joins his friends and we are then treated to their adventures with alcohol, drugs, and sex. But this is no teeny-bopper outing where dim-witted adolescents are fodder for embarrassing lines and actions; I found the characters innocence and naivety to be genuine. When the subsequent abduction of Phil takes place, the tension becomes palpable.

The prescription for a movie like Borderland is, of course, the same one applied to films like Hostel. But it’s a formula that will always work for horror. This is foreign land, everybody is corrupt, and when the maelstrom comes there is nobody to help you or hear you scream. The added true-story element (of which there is a surplus of information in the special features), gives credence to the harrowing brutality of human sacrifice. When the tides turn, and the victim seeks retribution, we discover they are capable of just as much atrocity as their tormentors. Although at times the pacing is slow and the dark tones will have you squinting, the climax ensures Borderland rises just above the usual crop to be a better than average horror film.