Monday, February 9, 2015

Film Review: Borderland (2007)

Borderland (Review)
United States/2007
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a hidden gem for fans of this sub-genre of horror."

Three college students, Ed (Brian Presley), Henry (Jake Muxworthy) and Phil (Rider Strong), take a trip to Mexico, but find themselves trapped after a kidnapping...

Borderland is a surprisingly character and story focused horror film. The story begins with a grizzly intro to a vicious cult in Mexico. Fast forward a year, Ed, Henry, and Phil head out to Mexico for a much-needed break. Ed finds love in a bartender, Phil falls for a prostitute, and Henry continues his carefree life. All is well until Phil is kidnapped. Ed and Henry investigate until they cross paths with cult members and realize they may be over their heads. It boils down to a very bloody climax and ending.

I really liked Borderland. It's the type of horror that takes its time to build itself up. Fortunately, it's also moderately paced -- not too slow, not too fast. Although it has a fair share of jump-scares, Borderland is more of a real-life horror film, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It focuses more on atmosphere, suspense, and creating a realistic story than jolting its audience. I love this type of horror, and it's executed very well in Borderland. Some scenes had me at the edge of my seat, others had me flinching from the ferocious violence. Don't fret, though, it's not reliant on gore and torture. In fact, it's only violent during the introduction and the climax. There are some illogical actions here and the story is a little longwinded, but it's ultimately an effective horror experience.

The cast was also strong. Jake Muxworthy, playing a douchebag, delivers a strong performance. Rider Strong has much less screen time, but manages to shine. (I grew up with Boys Meets World, I always wondered why Rider Strong didn't blossom. An unsolved mystery, indeed.) Brian Presley delivers the weakest performance, partly due to his range and some unnatural dialogue. The film has a very grungy style, again, reminiscent of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I enjoyed it, but it may not be for everyone. Writer and director Zev Berman delivers a very focused and effective horror film. Although there were plenty of opportunities, Berman stays away from gratuitous, over-the-top violence for most of the runtime and focuses more on atmosphere and suspense -- and it works out well.

Overall, Borderland is a great horror film. The atmosphere is always ominous, the suspense is effective, the climax is bloody, and the acting is strong. Borderland is a hidden gem for fans of this sub-genre of horror. If you love The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and kidnapped-abroad horror films, this is for you.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, including some sequences of torture, and some nudity.

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