High Tension (2003)

Marie (Cecile De France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) are college students on their way to Alex's family's isolated farmhouse. When they arrive all seems well and they curl up for a good night's sleep in anticipation of hitting the books the next day. However, in the middle of the night, a mysterious and quite unpleasant delivery man shows up at the door and begins killing off Alex's family. The rest of the film finds Marie trying desperately to free Alex from the clutches of this madman.

    Tagline: Hearts will bleed.

    Directing:
    • Alexandre Aja

    Writing:
    • Alexandre Aja
    • Grégory Levasseur

Release Date: 2003-06-18
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  • Alexandre Aja has gained a lot of momentum in the last year with the high profile remake of “The Hills Have Eyes.” But it was his first American released film that really put him on the map. “High Tension” (a.k.a “Haute Tension” and “Switchblade Romance”) built a lot of hype in early 2005 when it opened overseas and also from import DVD's that began making their rounds across the internet. Lions Gate made a statement that they would be releasing the new controversial slasher in its true uncut form here in the states. However, Lions Gate had to go back on their word after the MPAA got a hold of the uncut print and forced many cuts to get the film into R rated territory. Making matters worse, Lions Gate released a bastard cut of the film that had part English dubbing and part original language with English subtitles, further confusing audiences. The film entered and quickly exited theaters without causing much of a ruckus at all. However, when Lions Gate released the DVD of “High Tension” it seemed they had made up for their dizzy theatrical run, in spades. Packaging the DVD with both the English dubbing and the original language uncut versions of the film, they redeemed themselves and brought a whole new audience to the likes of “High Tension.” I would like to make a note here that I will be reviewing the uncut version of the film.

    The Review
    This is one of the most unrelenting and uncompromising slasher films I've seen in recent memory. From the very first appearance of our mysterious deliveryman to the dramatic and twisting conclusion, this film never lets go. The violence and gore in the film is surprisingly vicious and inventive and Aja does a fantastic job of building the suspense and terror to the breaking point. It's been a long time since I've seen an out and out slasher flick go so far over the edge and not give a good goddamn who doesn't like it. The movie is loaded with clichés but manages to seem so new and refreshing that you barely even notice them.

    Another great force in the film is the acting. Cecile De France does a fantastic job as Marie and looks quite convincing throughout. The rest of the cast does a top-notch job as well with special recognition going to Phillipe Mahon. Mahon is one of the most menacing and sadistic murderers in recent years and really adds something new and exciting to genre films. He's smart and methodical and even has a small, black sense of humor thrown in for good measure. Overall, the performances were all very realistic and added some serious depth to “High Tension.”

    The atmosphere in this film is also fantastic. From the wonderfully eerie music and sound effects to the dynamically staged set pieces, the atmosphere shines throughout. When combining this with some terrific gore effects, an unrelenting pace and suspense as thick as Los Angeles smog you've got yourself one great slasher flick.
    And now, for the strings attached…

    The premise itself is a pretty recycled horror fare. Two girls in a house, one gets kidnapped while the other tries to rescue her…seen it before. But what sets this script apart from similar tries is its final twist ending. I'm not going to reveal anything here for those of you who haven't seen it yet but you've got about a 50/50 chance of being disappointed. There's a lot of people that have walked away from this film loving everything about it and there's a lot of people that have walked away quite befuddled. The last few minutes of “High Tension” are an exercise in plausibility and it's going to be up to you, the viewer, to decide whether or not you buy what they're selling.

    The Summary
    “High Tension” has a lot of the elements that horror fans have been salivating for, over the years. The blood flows like a raging river, the suspense is masterfully executed, the acting is top drawer and the atmosphere is ripe with terror. Depending on your own interpretation of the plot twist, you may or may not be pleased with the story but there's no denying the relentless slasher that lies within. If you're a fan of horror and especially slasher, then you owe it to yourself to check out “High Tension.” You may never look at a French film the same way again. ..

    Famous Last Words...
    Plot / Story: B (A pretty simple story with a stretching twist)
    Gore / Action: A (Fantastic and inventive gore effects)
    Acting: A (Some of the best acting I've seen in a slasher in recent memory)
    Directing: A- (Nail biting suspense and a freight train pacing)
    Nudity / Sexual Content: C (There are only a couple very brief scenes, but I rate what I see)
    Comedy: N/A (Not really anything here so no rating applied)
    Sound / Audio: A (Terrific music and sound effects build a menacing atmosphere)
    Overall: A-

    Published Full Review
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