There is name for a
movie like High Tension. “Deplorable,” I think it might be. Of
course, there’s also “terrible,” “unforgivable,” “grotesque,” “nasty”
and a whole slew of others I could probably come up with. Quite
frankly, during the first thirty minutes of the screening I attended
at least a dozen people walked out, the unrelenting gore and
ultra-violence too much for even members of Seattle’s renowned
splatter-friendly moviegoers to handle.
Quite frankly I
don’t blame them. I’m not sure why such positive buzz is circulating
around this atrociously dubbed French import. In all actuality, the
movie is nothing more than a late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s-style slasher pic
only amped up with modern-day blood-splattered makeup effects. No more
is this more evident than a slow, utterly nihilistic sequence where a
woman’s neck is slashed and then her head pulled slowly backwards and
apart like someone pulling meat off a bone. The whole thing is
sickening, the sound of popping blood vessels and cracking bone enough
to send even the hardest heart into anaphylactic shock.
The moment is part
of a thirty minute unrelentingly horrifying attack on a country
farmhouse by a crazed madman (Philippe Nahon) where an entire family
is laid waste. The only survivors are two college girls; one the dead
family’s eldest daughter Alex (Maïwenn), the other her best friend
Marie (Cécile De France). Alex is chained up and thrown in the back of
a hideously disgusting van while the other does her best to avoid
becoming the crazy man’s latest deformed victim. Successful in her
secrecy, she takes it upon herself to save Alex, following the killer
every step and trying to find a way to contact the police for help. In
the end, Marie decides that to free Alex she will have to take the
maniac on herself, killing him before he does her.
I’ll be honest;
High Tension did get to me. I spent the majority of the picture
crouched low in my seat holding my gut and flinching uncontrollably.
When I got home, I turned on all the lights, shut the windows and
peered into the darkness at least seven times to make sure no one was
lurking in the shadows. That thirty minute assault on the farmhouse is
merciless in its visceral intensity, so in-your-face you need a
washcloth to wipe away the splattered blood and cranial fluid dripping
down your cheek. For those that like this sort of thing, and in
point-of-fact I usually do, a person could do a heck of a lot worse
So what. This movie
bites the big one is so many ways it’s almost impossible to get into
them all. Not only is it an assault on the senses, the film is so
narcissistically nihilistic the only ones sure to get a kick out of it
are members of the Manson Family fan club. Worse, there is a twist at
the end that makes everything that came before not only absurd, but
insulting as well. It’s one of those M. Night Shyamalan-like “Gotcha!”
moments where everyone in the audience is supposed to slap their
foreheads and feel like idiots for not seeing it beforehand. Except,
unlike his (save for the one in The Village) this one makes no
sense whatsoever its absurdity enough to make you laugh in contempt.
If you trace backwards from the reveal and go through the whole movie
again, nothing works; it absolutely impossible for anything that has
occurred to have happened the way it is depicted if this slight of
hand is to be considered true. It’s idiotic, stupefying in its
banality, so insulting to both the intelligence and to all rational
human sensibilities I can’t imagine sitting through a more painful
venture this year.
writer/director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur would be
ashamed for unleashing such noxious waste upon the public if not for
the fact studios are suddenly falling all over themselves to suddenly
employ the French filmmakers so enthusiastically. But don’t let that
excitement fool you; High Tension is a heart condition worth
ê (out of
- Second Review
College gal pals Marie (Cecile De France) and
have decided to escape the rigors of college life and stay at Alex’s
parent’s home in Southern France, in order to get some much needed
studying in. However, the very night that they arrive, the home is
attacked by a brutal killer who kidnaps Alex and murders her entire
family. Marie manages to elude the killer and takes it upon herself to
save her friend. However, things are not always what they seem.
High Tension is one
of those horror films that gives the viewer plenty of things to talk
about afterwards, however, also leaves the viewer with far too many
questions than answers. The film is, ultimately, an uneven mix between
the Dean Koontz novel Intensity and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s
definitely not for all tastes. It’s a very brutal and gross film, done
in the style of slasher films of the late 70’s and early 80’s. If
those sorts of films are not your cup of tea, this film will
definitely trouble you. And for those who do enjoy these types of
films, it’s definitely one to check out.
I had the
opportunity to see the uncut (and NC-17 rated) Haute Tension prior to
viewing the minute shorter High Tension, and thankfully nothing much
has changed. The violence is slightly (and I only mean slightly) cut
down and the film is half in French and half dubbed in English. Though
there isn’t that much dialogue in the film, both the quality of the
dub and the use is well done.
As I stated above,
the film leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. The
logic of the film is best described as Lynchian. The film does have a
twist end which completely throws the events of entire film into
question. What did we just finish seeing? What’s real, what’s not?
While the twist does feel like a cheat, it does leave the viewer (as I
stated above) with something to discuss.
That is, if you
really feel the need to discuss the ending of a brutal slasher film.
êê (out of