High Tension Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/10/2005
Is it possible to ruin a decent horror movie completely because of its ending? In High Tension, it’s extremely possible.
Alex (Maïwenn) and Marie (Cécile De France) are a couple of college students going to Alex’s parents’ house to relax and study for some exams. Alex’s parents (Andrei Finti and Oana Pellea) live in the country somewhere in France, but they are apparently American. Aside from the parents, the household includes Alex’s younger brother Tom (Marco Claudiu Pascu) and the family dog Hendrix. While driving to the household, Marie has a dream that she is being chased. She flags down an Audi and tells the driver (Gabriel Spahiu) that someone is chasing her. Then she wakes up. Also on the way to the household, a disturbed hick (Philippe Nahon) watches the girls drive off while he does…well…not very pleasant things to a decapitated head. You can see little pictures on his rearview mirror of girls that he has apparently done something bad to up to now. That night, The Killer (that’s what he is named in the credits…or should I say he is named “Le tueur” in French) rings the doorbell. Alex’s dad opens the door and The Killer slashes his face with a straight razor. To top that off, The Killer puts Alex’s dad’s head in the stairwell, moves a piece of furniture, and knocks his head off (it is very nasty.) The Killer then heads up the stairs. Meanwhile, Marie is lying in bed listening to some music and pleasuring herself while thinking about Alex (you can tell she has a lesbian crush on Alex, because she had attentively watched Alex naked earlier that evening.) By the time Marie realizes what’s going on, The Killer had already cut the phone lines, killed Hendrix, killed Alex’s dad (natch), and was heading up to finish off the rest of the family (and apparently kidnap Alex for who knows what.) Marie tries erasing all evidence that she was there and hides in the bedroom of Alex’s parents, where she hopes that she might find a phone. While in the closet, she sees The Killer brutally kill Alex’s mom. He then ties Alex up and goes after Tom, whom he shoots in the head out in the cornfield (fortunately, we don’t see that horrific act on camera.) He puts Alex in the back of his delivery truck and drives off. Alex isn’t alone in the back of the truck though; Marie has stowed away in there too, and she hopes to find a way for both of them to escape. She finds her opportunity at a gas station, where The Killer wants some gas and a bottle of booze from Jimmy (Franck Khalfoun), the gas station attendant. Marie finds her way out of the truck and tries to warn Jimmy, but The Killer kills Jimmy with an axe. He drives off, and, despite trying to call the police, Marie finds the keys (and his gun) of Jimmy’s car and tries to follow the delivery truck. From then on, a series of incomprehensible things happen, leading to a “twist” ending that makes absolutely no sense.
From the beginning, I thought that the movie was a little goofy, but was cheesy fun. The horror movie special effects were amazing. Director Alexandre Aja didn’t back off with the gore; it was refreshing (albeit in a disturbing way) to see hard R-rating horror instead of the PG-13 wusiness that we have been subjected to in the last couple of years (originally the movie got an NC-17 rating.) Once the translation of the movie went from dubbing to subtitles, I started getting annoyed. It felt like they had tried to dub it, but then got lazy and went with subtitles instead. The production notes explained the translation discrepancy (Marie was bilingual, and Alex and her family were American), but if you didn’t know this, you would be confused as to why it went from dubbing to subtitles. Also, the ending was really, really confusing and bad. I’m not going to spoil the end for you, but it made no sense. At least when the “twist” ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village turned out to be predictable and bad, it made sense. That doesn’t happen here.
High Tension does live up to its title and it is tension-filled. If it weren’t for the translation and the end, I’d recommend it for horror fans. Here’s a tip for anyone who wants to salvage the evening of going to see this movie: at a little over an hour, right around the time that Marie fashions the stick of wood with barbed wire that you see on the posters and in the trailers, and gives a beat down to The Killer…walk out. It’s the only way you will enjoy this movie.
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