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High Tension  (2005)


Starring: Cecile de France, Philippe Nahon, Maïwenn

Director: Alexandre Aja

Rating: R

Distributor: Lions Gate Films

Release Date: 06.10.05

Review Posted: 06.10.05


By Sara M. Fetters                      Read our Second Review


Avoiding Tension High Priority


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 than this.


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.


I imagine 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 avoiding.


Film Rating: ê  (out of 4)



"High Tension" - Second Review


By Jon Bjorling


College gal pals Marie (Cecile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn) 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.


Film Rating: êê  (out of 4)


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