Borderland (2007)

Directed By: Zev Berman
Written By: Zev Berman
  Eric Poppen
Starring: Jake Muxworthy
  Rider Strong
  Brian Presley
  Sean Astin
Borderland

Holidays in foreign countries never work out for horny Americans. They begin well, with a plethora of drugs, prostitutes and drinks, but always seem to end with a helping of horrible violence. Borderland is exactly like this – tragically clichéd, but also burdened with a lackluster storyline, some dull direction and poor character work. It’s entertaining enough, but without the promised brutality of Hostel or Saw it lacks punch. Borderland does nothing more than make sex-hungry men not want to go abroad. Again.

Borderland begins with two detectives investigating a home full of occult paraphernalia in Mexico City. Within minutes they’re captured and one of them is graphically and horribly tortured.

Snap-cut one year later and we’re transported to Texas, where we meet a trio of arrogant college-grad assholes, whom you instantly want to die. These are the utterly depraved Henry (Jake Muxworthy), the broody hero type Ed (Brian Presley) and the easily-led hyperactive virgin Phil (Cabin Fever’s Rider Strong). Henry’s character is especially unlikeable, muttering phrases like “rise and shine faggot” and aspiring to work on a human cloning program.

Ripping shamelessly on Hostel, the three travel to a foreign country (Mexico this time, giving Eastern Europe a rest) and annoy the wrong people. The violence this time is provided by a human-sacrifice cult, which has the police running scared and the locals terrified for the “vanished”. Everything is going well for the trio until Phil goes missing, and it’s a race against time to save him before the cult makes him its ultimate sacrifice.

The major disappointment is the lack of Danny Trejo and Robert LaSardo, who surely are supposed to be in every movie set anywhere near Mexico. Oddly, however, cameo duties land on Sean Astin’s shoulders, and he appears as an American lackey to the evil cult leader Santillan. Despite this random inclusion, Astin does steal the show in his brief appearance, adding the only piece of real tension to the film in a scene between him and Rider Strong – touching lightly upon a dangerous psychosis that is both disturbing and utterly believable.

This film is sold as being for fans of Saw, Hostel and other vivid gorefests of sadistic darkness, but after the initial ten minutes Borderland barely even touches upon the grotesquery of modern gorenography. Once the eye-gouging is complete, the majority of the violence is done with machetes and not as vividly as perhaps hoped-for. There is a nice cleaver-in-the-shoulder moment and some decent firefights, but overall this will be a disappointment for those after more gruesome torture.

Sadly, without the grisly gore, Borderland has little else to sell itself. The plot is juddering and crawling and the characters are distinctly uncompelling. The story proves startlingly simple and completely without the supernatural context the prelude suggests. Any hopes that human sacrifice will lead to something demonic are dashed, especially considering the hilariously overused “inspired by true events” tag is flashed up at the beginning.

Writer / Director Zev Berman paints Mexico in the usual clichéd colours of supernatural fear and ugly mucky yellows, and makes no concerted effort to ensure the audience sympathizes with the characters. He moves the story along efficiently, but until the finale he never adds a sense of pace or urgency to the piece.

Borderland is brutal, grim and immensely unrewarding. It’s tiresome, expected stuff that is neither dreadful nor excellent. It doesn’t contain enough torture and pain for the gorenography crowd and fails to compel as a thriller for anyone else.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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