Directed by Zev Berman
Starring Brian Presley, Jake Muxworthy, Rider Strong
Review by Jordan
Borderland, a 2007 thriller directed by the inexperienced Zev Berman, makes 2 very clever decisions to ensure it’s successful wielding of power and suspense:
- It assaults the viewer with a shocking act of violence (being the climax to a dark and intriguing set-up) in the film’s opening, before settling into the tonal opposite shortly thereafter with a trio of college hopefuls looking for a summer of fun before maturity and careers beckon. This initial, disturbing event then lingers in the back of the viewers mind while scenes of cliched care-free shenanigans unfold on screen, and when one of our 3 likable American leads is kidnapped in a moment of unabashed dread we understand that the worst truly can, and most likely will happen. Just like it worked in Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005 – making it nearly a decade old (!)), it works here too.
- It casts one of the most instantly likeable actors in the business thanks to The Goonies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sean Astin, as a slimy serial killer turned human-sacrifice cult follower who feverishly taunts a chained abductee. At any moment you expect Astin to reveal his character as an undercover cop, subsequently helping to save the day and being heroically shot down in the process… well at least I did anyway. Needless to say, his character is an unsettling one; unsettling being just the word to describe most of what Borderland brings to the grimy table.
While still flawed as most of its peers, Berman’s unheralded film remains throughout a harrowing experience, dragging the unlucky players over steaming hot coals before dispatching the really unlucky ones in chilling set-pieces ripped straight from the schizophrenic nightmares of a late ’80’s teenager. At times overly blunt in its violence, there is also enough that happens in the shadows for it to linger in the mind right up until what would normally be a calming sleep – and still might be calming, when one considers the downfalls that hinder this horror/crime thriller hybrid “based on real events” in becoming the Texas Chainsaw Massacre type it aspires to be.
As nerve-wracking as Borderland may be at times, and scary and gleefully off-putting, it is also incredibly farfetched in the happenings that further the plot. Villains appear to be able to travel from one side of town to the other in the blink of an eye, and the police seem way too corrupt and nonplussed, resting well within the stereotype you’d hope an independent film like this would avoid (not to mention the other stereotype of a cop out to avenge his partner’s death).
Still, you have to admire the energy and eagerness to terrify on display here, and to linger on the negatives just doesn’t seem right.