Sunday, June 12, 2005

Movie Review: High Tension (Haute Tension)

France, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 6/10/05 (wide)
Running Time: 1:25
Rated: R (Violence, gore, sexual situations, nudity)
Cast: Cécile De France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon, Franck Khalfoun, Andrei Finti, Oana Pellea

Director: Alexandre Aja
Producers: Alexandre Arcady, Robert Benmussa
Screenplay: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur
Music: François Eudes
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Dubbed into English

Posted by Hello
Warning: This review contains comments that some may perceive as spoilers.

After a few mildly distracting overdubs, High Tension’s viscera begins to churn, and from there, it never lets up. Within High Tension’s first hour or so there is much to praise; the terror is top-shelf, the score (which is comprised of more wind, creaks, and static rather than music) is outstanding, and the killer is perhaps the most psychotic and merciless in recent horror history. However, during the film’s off-kilter climax, all hell breaks lose. In terms of horror, suspense, and tension, High Tension does indeed rank high, but in its final ten minutes this otherwise superlative feature spirals into senselessness.

In an overused fashion, High Tension reveals a piece of the conclusion in its opening sequence. The audience observes the film’s lead running through the woods—covered in blood with a stab wound to the stomach. This scene builds a platform as to where the rest of the film will lead.

Rewind one day. Alex (Maïwenn) and her friend Marie (Cecile de France) are traveling to Alex’s house to cram for their upcoming college exams. Once they arrive, Alex introduces Marie to her mother, father, and brother, and shows Marie her room. When the lights go out, a creepy truck – reminiscent of the vehicle seen in Jeepers Creepers – approaches the house. A man (Philippe Nahon) exits this vehicle, rings the doorbell, and – once he is greeted at the door – begins butchering every member of Alex’s family. It is not until Alex is chained, gagged, and thrown into the back of the killer’s rusty truck, when Marie attempts to fend for both her and her friend’s lives.

How the entire production team sat through the filming of this feature without screaming, “Wait! Stop! None of this makes sense!” is absolutely beyond me. The filmmakers’ have previously tried to explain the picture’s numerous plot holes by claiming that the story is supposed to be told through the deranged killer’s point of view. However, this still doesn’t explain how one person can be in two different places at the same time on more than one occasion. If only Aja had stuck to convention and avoided an attempt at ingenuity, his effort would have then been one of the most impressive horror films to date.

Without the twist, this film would have easily been given a three-and-one-half star rating, but because Aja takes the most irrational of routes – thereby plummeting the plot into utter implausibility – High Tension drops a full star on the rating scale. For those who are true horror aficionados, High Tension is worth a trip to the theater, but, upon exiting, everyone will almost certainly share in my frustration. If you enjoy copious amounts of blood and gore, High Tension is the fix you have been looking for, but if you possess a functional brain, the territory the film treads into will easily prove to be illogical. Unlike Maxwell House, this bloody ode to American horror is not “good ‘til the last drop”; sadly, in the case of High Tension, it is the last drop that spoils the whole pot. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005