Remarkably, of the two films, Frontiere(s) has the more believable premise. In Humains, the bad guys are a surviving tribe of Neanderthals, who have run entirely out of women; they can't even in-breed. A group of anthropologists - including French mainstays Philippe Nahon and Dominique Pinon - arrive in the remote Swiss valley where these Neanderthals have been hiding, doing the things that Neanderthals do - painting on the walls of their caves, hunting with spears, fashioning a Stonehenge-like burial ground, grunting. Our protagonists must find a way to evade capture, and then, when their women get taken, to get them back... Humains belongs to the survival horror genre that I so love - its references are Deliverance and Rituals and The Hills Have Eyes, as opposed to Frontiere(s)' constant mining of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel (and maybe to a slight extent Kichiku Dai Enkai). In addition to boasting a talented cast and some terrific landscape photography, Humains is actually the more original of the two films, reading as a valid, new entry in its subgenre, while Frontiere(s) ends up seeming highly derivative, borrowing chunks from movie after movie.
Frontiere(s), however, is worth a look. It is, as I say, almost entirely derivative, and doesn't do as much as it could to mine its latent political meanings; had the youths been rioters or activists, as opposed to mere criminals, the confrontation with Fascism would have been that much more loaded, and the degradation, humiliation, and so forth they encounter at the hands of the Nazis could be read as being the pit at the bottom of a slippery slope they'd gotten on, and perhaps given the film the aspect of being a cautionary political warning, or a parable about racism, or such. It would have deepened the meaning of the ending, as well - I won't reveal the final images, but they're poignant, among the best moments in the film. As it is, tho', Frontiere(s) is still superbly crafted, and achieves a pretty stunning level of brutality (enough so that it apparently was given an NC-17 rating in North America). And its slickly made, with great gore effects; Humains seems to flinch from its violence, a bit - not that it would have improved matters much to see Dominique Pinon actually get impaled on a spear, but Frontiere(s) wins a certain level of respect for going for the gusto.
I need another good European horror film or two - preferably French or Belgian - to hold in reserve for my next sick day. Anyone got suggestions? I've done Them and Inside and In My Skin and Trouble Every Day and Calvaire... what else is out there?