Perhaps one of the oddest films we’ve seen at this years Fantastic Fest is co-writer/director Ali Abbasi’s Border (Gräns). This film is a morbid, sometimes disgusting fairy tale set in a modern-day Sweden. Unfortunately, the less said about this movie the better, so apologies for being intentionally vague or withholding. Film Festivals are perfect for hidden gems, and surprise screenings but what really makes those movies so effective is your willingness to go in completely blind. Surely, some of your favourite movies are the ones that came out of nowhere or completely blindsided your expectations.
Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s short story of the same, Border (Gräns) is a film made for the patient viewer who is willing to give themselves over to the winding road a story can take you on. The film features two incredible performances from actors who have completely transformed, losing themselves in prosthetic makeup. Border is the slowest of burns, and while it will not make you jump out of your seat, you will slowly recede into it as the films reminds you of the true darkness that exists in our world.
Border follows Tina (Eva Melander), a border security agent with a sixth sense for picking out smugglers. She excels in her work, helping stop narcotics, and career criminals from flooding her city’s streets. In her personal life, she finds solace in the peace and tranquility of the forest surrounding her home. To relax, she goes for long walks barefoot, and skinny-dips in a nearby river. Tina yearns for belonging in the world and seeks companionship where she can find it. Her live-in boyfriend trains dogs, and bets on horse racing, but accomplishes little else. There is no romance between the two of them, but Tina just enjoys having someone around. For a woman with her appearance, she figures, it’s the best she can ask for.
Tina’s superiors can’t help but be impressed when she literally sniffs out a memory card filled in child pornography. They’re puzzled by her abilities but with no previous success in finding the distributor of this horrible material, they enlist her in the search. At the same time, she also meets a man (Eero Milonoff) unlike anyone she’s ever encountered. She is absolutely sure he is hiding something but to her surprise, she cannot prove exactly what he is guilty of. And then there’s also the unmistakable similarities they share, physically. Tina befriends the man, and sets down a path of shocking, and life changing self discovery.
I so wish I could tell you more about Border. It is such a strange, and dark story that goes places you will not expect. Unfortunately, as is, my brief synopsis also makes the movie sound like quiet, romantic comedy about two outcasts. While Border is definitely quiet, it is the furthest thing from a romantic comedy. Unless of course your romantic comedy was about terrible, awful people who- AGHHH! I’m saying too much. It’s impossible talk about this movie :'(
Border is not a typical horror fans movie, but it is chock-full of genre elements and unique, clever uses of those elements. If some of your favourite films bring a level of dark fantasy into real world situations, then Border is definitely for you. But on the other hand, if you have a hard time with films that require you to push through into the 3rd act before it’s more wild components are introduced, this one might not be your speed. You will find no gore, or jump scares here, but where Border succeeds is in slowly unraveling a series of “Oh F*ck!” moments at a slow, unsettling pace.
Border celebrated it’s Texas premiere September 21st at the 2018 Fantastic Film Festival. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantastic Fest coverage here!