High Tension (2003)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Overall Rating 73%
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Cécile de France
Cécile de France
Philippe Nahon
Philippe Nahon
Franck Khalfoun
Franck Khalfoun
Andrei Finti
Andrei Finti
Review by Chad
Added: April 20, 2005
As the movie starts out, we see Marie, a young lady with scars on her face, sitting on a bed and repeating the line "I'll never let them come between us again" (or something very similar) over and over. We then see a flashback of what happened to put her in this state of mind and bodily condition, a flashback that spans the course of the movie. Our feature-length flashback begins with Marie and her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) driving to Alex's parents house for the summer. It seems as though the two ladies are going to be working on their farm for the summer or some such, although exactly why they're going to be staying there is never really explained... it's not very important, anyway. Alex introduces Marie to her mother, father, and young brother before going to bed, after which Marie puts on a pair of headphones in her room and listens to some music. Shortly after laying down, there's a knock at the door... Marie gets up to see what's going on, and sees that Alex's father is going to answer the door. As Marie watches, she sees father open the door for a hulking delivery man (Philippe Nahon), a man who wastes no time in bashing father's head in with a crowbar-looking weapon. This doesn't kill father, however... he crawls to the side, and I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil it. Marie is obviously disturbed by this, but manages to keep her cool... instead of going batshit insane and screaming, she hides in the house while the killer picks up the rest of the family, with the exception of Alex, who he ties up and places in his truck. Some more stuff happens that I won't spoil, and the remainder of the movie deals with Marie trying to rescue Alex from this serial killer.

Here we have an excellent horror film that has received rave reviews in other countries. Lions Gate picked up the American distribution rights, and will be releasing it over here on June 3rd (as of now) under the title High Tension. Sadly, it has been confirmed that they'll be cutting out a good chunk of the nastier material to bring the rating down to an R from the original NC-17. Not only will the best parts of the film wind up on the cutting-room floor for us Americans, we'll also be "treated" to a dubbed version of the French dialog. Now, I obviously haven't seen how well they managed to dub the movie with English, so I can't really pass judgment there... but in my experience, dubbing usually kills the flow of the movie. My advice for you, the viewer, would be to pick up one of the various import versions of the film and skip the American theatrical run if you have any interest in this one.

Now, on the movie itself. That title certainly describes the movie perfectly, as director Alexandre Aja never lets the tension break once the movie gets started. Whereas the American style of horror / thriller is to constantly throw in false scares and comedic one-liners to keep the mood light enough for a pansy-ass audience, we never receive those sort of mood-relievers here. From the time that the killer bashes father's head in in the first ten minutes up until the credits roll, there's not one break in the tension. This serves to keep the movie flowing along nicely, and to raise the anticipation of the audience. Furthering this tension is the score that overlays a good chunk of the movie. Very few movies manage to throw out a score that do such an excellent job of enhancing the film at hand, but this is indeed one of those select few. However, it's the scenes that are shot in almost complete silence that do an even better job of raising that tension level. The best way that I could describe how it works out is to compare it to the Resident Evil / Silent Hill line of games. For those who have never played any of the games from those series (and really, who hasn't?), it works out something like this - the parts of the game where the music is playing and the enemies are in plain sight are bad enough, but the ones that really set the atmosphere are the ones that have no enemies on screen and no music playing... it's the feeling that something could happen at any moment that really plays with your mind even more than actually seeing something in front of you. This effect is used in the movie in a number of scenes, and really works out nicely to raise the atmosphere that much more.

The final thing I'm going to touch on here is the ending. Yes, there's a surprise awaiting the viewer in the closing moments of the film. This little twist at the end was excellent, and I doubt that most would see it coming unless they've had the ending spoiled in advance. This little twist has been done before in a couple of movies, (not a whole lot), but it really ends this particular film perfectly. However, I can see the gripes coming now... when the short-attention-span American viewers see it and take it at face-value, it won't make much sense. There will be cries of "horrible ending", "it makes no sense", and of course, "but how... there's so many plot-holes!" Once again, my advice for you viewers - think about what you are presented with before passing judgment. It does make sense after a bit of thinking, but the clues leading up to it are very subtle... this isn't one of those movies that basically draws a diagram explaining the twist.

An excellent movie, and well worth the effort to pick up an import copy in order to see the film the way that it was meant to be seen. Horror fans that can put on the old thinking-cap while watching a movie will find this one to be a genre classic. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 11/04/2005, 03:01 AM
This movie was incredible. Between the fast paced action sequences, and the quiet calm scary scenes, this movie had it all.
dadarulz #2: dadarulz - added 12/02/2005, 02:15 PM
I think this was a pretty descent horror movie, the kind that gives back some credit to the genre. The gore was very well done and most disgusting, but I think the ending WAS disappointing... After Fight Club and Hide and Seek and such, I don't find it original anymore. And there ARE plotholes in my opinion, like the gas station scene that I find very difficult to buy considering the ending. But a pretty decent horror movie nevertheless.
crAckerr #3: crAckerr - added 01/02/2007, 12:36 PM
dadarulz, it was more like The Usual Suspects...what we saw was her version of the story, which she was telling on tape in the insane asylum. That means any of it could've been bullshit. Most of the stuff did happen, just not the exact way she was describing it.
Dametria #4: Dametria - added 04/24/2007, 11:28 AM
I was hesitant about this one at first considering most euro-horror sucks but boy was I surprised with this one. It RULED! Gotta love a beheaded BJ scene...
Ginose #5: Ginose - added 07/28/2007, 01:56 PM
Wait... most euro-horror sucks...? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!?

As far as this movie was concerned, damn, it was awesome. Some of the best gore and over-layered suspense I've seen in any movie this decade! This is the amused by gore teen talking. Now, the guy who appreciates film will get in his two-cents: The movie itself was one of the bes things I've seen come out of France in years, the acting was lovely, the effects and over-all style of cinematography used on camera made it so much fun to watch. Aja is a director to keep an eye on, watch for his stuff. 9/10
Crispy #6: Crispy - added 01/15/2010, 03:43 AM
Dean Koontz "Intensity". I refuse to offer a single word of praise for this blatant plagiarism.
Lucid Dreams #7: Lucid Dreams - added 09/06/2010, 09:17 PM
I didn't like it as much as everyone else, but this was a good flick. 8/10
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