**** (out of 5)
June 10, 2005
Cecile De France as MARIE
Maiwenn Le Besco as ALEX
Philippe Nahon as LE TUEUR
Franck Khalfoun as JIMMY
Studio: Lion’s Gate
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Finally! Finally we have a horror movie released in 2005 that is worth watching!
In fact, “High Tension” is different and freaky enough to make me fondly think of 2003 and 2004 when we were seeing some unique and different horror films like “28 Days Later,” “Cabin Fever,” “Saw” and “The Grudge.”
To be honest, though, “High Tension” has actually been around for a while. A French film that tore up the festival circuit a few years ago, “High Tension” is just seeing its American release now.
Originally, the movie earned an NC-17 rating for violence. However, distributor Lion’s Gate was able to negotiate the rating down to a releasable R without losing much impact.
“High Tension” starts with two young college girls on their way to visit one of their families out in the country. That night, as everyone is getting ready for bed, a mysterious stranger comes to the farm and launches a brutal killing spree. This taunt thriller quickly turns into a generic psychotic killer stalking story that we’ve seen before. However, instead of being marred with American cinema cliches, it takes a fresh European look at the slasher film.
I’ve seen a lot of horror films in my day, and while there isn’t much in “High Tension” I haven’t seen before, it is a very well put together film. There are some story points that really don’t make sense, and sometimes cause problems if you think too hard about them. But the strengths of “High Tension” come more from the suspense than creativity in the writing.
I’ll be the first to admit that not everything in “High Tension” works, but when it does work, it’s flawless. And it has some imagery that will haunt you. In fact, the film has the most disturbing introduction of a villain I have ever seen. That will live in my nightmares forever.
Gore hounds will love this film, but it’s more than just a slasher film. It’s an exercise in suspense and tension, hence the name. You might see the film with its alternative title, “Switchblade Romance.” While I admit this is a cool title, it isn’t nearly as appropriate as “High Tension.”
The plot falls into some traps that plague American horror movies, but even these have a fresh feel to it. The journey to the end is exciting enough, if not completely original.
Be careful when reading about this film, though – especially on the Internet. There’s a lot of buzz out there, but there’s also a lot of spoilers. If you float through even a few newsgroups or discussions, you’ll find a lot of talk about plot twists and the ending. Do yourself a favor and see the movie before reading too much. “High Tension” is a film meant to be experienced first and discussed later – and it’s definitely worth a second look.
Regardless of some clunky plot twists and inexplicable developments, “High Tension” definitely has power. But keep in mind, it’s not for the squeamish. Leave the kids – and some adults – at home for this one.