The Drudgeon reviews High Tension

High Tensionaka Haute Tension (Original Title)
91 min., 2003
Written by Alexandre Aja/Grégory Levasseur
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Language: English
My rating: ★★

A good throwback to the 70’s/80’s slasher movie but with a lame and lazy ending.

* * *

We begin with a girl, who looks like she has been through hell, running through the woods.  She is almost hit by a car, but then she wakes up.  Her name is Marie (Cécile De France) and she and her friend Alex (Maïwenn) are driving to Alex’s parents’ house for a bit of a break from college.  Alex’s mom (Oana Pellea) and dad (Andrei Finti) are very welcoming especially because they have heard all about Marie and now they finally get to meet her.  After Alex shows Marie around the house they all sit down and have a nice dinner.  After that everyone except Marie goes to bed, she goes for a walk outside, goes inside and then she decides to have a little bit of fun with herself.  She hears something and sees a man at the door.  Alex’s father answers the door and is attacked by a man (Philippe Nahon) with a straight razor.  Can Marie save Alex and her family from the crazy killer or will the killer get away with his prize?

The acting in the movie is really top notch.  Everyone brings in great performances and there are very few times where the characters are unbelievable.  Cécile De France does a great job moving through the movie being terrified throughout, but when the time finally comes she rises to the challenge and makes the tough girl believable.  Maïwenn doesn’t have very many lines throughout the movie but when they show her reactions to things, she is just great.  Just through her eyes she is able to convey an incredible amount of terror and fear.  Lastly we have the killer, Philippe Nahon.  This guy looks like one of the scummiest of the scummy and he just has a really slimy look about him.  Now he just doesn’t look the part he really acts the part.  His eyes have a very piercing look to them almost like you know exactly what he is thinking about doing to them and then you picture those things which adds another level of unease.

The movie’s effects are really quite nice.  The only real problem is that they are incredibly over-the-top.  Now I love over-the-top gore and violence, but this movie really didn’t need the amount that it gave.  It was so over-the-top that it just turned into a laughfest.  The kills are so overdone that it’s to the point of being silly.  Actually it was the first kill that set the standard.  After seeing that death I just knew that they weren’t taking themselves all that serious which is kinda strange because the rest of the movie has an air of seriousness and tension.  This is an actual case of the buckets-of-blood gore destroying any tension that I may have had.  Now don’t get me wrong, they are a blast to watch, but in a movie that builds up the tension and then takes off a head with a set of drawers you just really can’t get into it all that much.  Actually the absurd amount of gore reminds me of a high polished Evil Dead or a Troma movie.

So with the last two paragraphs being mostly positive you may be asking why I gave such a low rating.  First off were the effects that took any tension that I had away and second was the ending.  The whole movie was a great throwback to the best slashers and this one could have been in the same class and could have been a classic.  SPOILERS start here:  The main problem is when you get to the ¾ mark and you find out what is really going on.  It’s really just a slap in the face with a rusty nail covered bat to anyone that has invested the time into the movie.  It’s not as bad as the whole “it was a dream” thing, but it was pretty darn close.  The ending brings up questions about the first 3/4ths of the movie.  Now I could bring up some of the most obvious questions like, how can she (being as small and unmuscular as she is) carry Alex as easy as it seems?  How can she be in two cars at one time?  But I’m going to just ask two questions.  One, how does the part where the killer is in the truck and getting head from a severed head (ha ha ha) play into the whole thing?  Second, if she has never been there (which it was pretty much stated) then where did the truck come from and how did she know her way around so well?  Now there could be numerous answers for these questions, but they just don’t sit well in my mind.  SPOILER end.  In the end you should just watch the first 3/4ths and forget the rest.  Philippe Nahon is great but the ending is really lame and it felt like they were just trying to fit into the new trend of horror where every movie needs some sort of shocking twist.  It failed in this movie and caused an otherwise great slasher to be nothing more than a big letdown.

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About The Drudgeon

I don't remember my real name or where I came from. All I know is that I'm traped in an underground cave with nothing but a TV, DVD player and a notebook and pen. They keep calling me The Drudgeon, I don't even know what that means. Someone keeps dropping horror movies in and yelling at me to watch them and write about what I watch. Then I eat the DVD and case, because they tell me if I consume the horror I will understand the horror. I think there are three of them. So if you are reading this right now, HELP ME!!!!!!! OUCH!!!! Someone just poked me with a sea urchin attacked to a pool cue, what the fuck is going on?
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2 Responses to The Drudgeon reviews High Tension

  1. John Bruni says:

    I completely agree with you. I loved this movie up until the end. The end ruined the rest of it for me.

  2. Lackey says:

    Well, my thoughts on this film are already part of the record:

    Over the past year and a half, though, my opinion of it has changed a bit. I don’t think of it as a great film marred by a crappy twist ending, I think of it as a shitty film redeemed by a couple of great performances (although I don’t think I was as impressed with Maïwenn le Besco as you were) and some effective direction.

    I’m pretty sure, however, that if I had been in a bad mood the night I watched this, I would have given it a skull.

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