HIGH TENSION (DVD)

4 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 85 minutes
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Everything and anything said about this film is a possible spoiler. It’s just the way the thing is structured so if you go see it I suggest you stay clear of this review otherwise the full effect of the film won’t be felt.

Two college friends Marie and Alex head off to Alex’s fathers farm while on vacation. There’s a bit of friction between the two girls. Nothing major, but it’s not helped by the fact that Marie just had a dream where she was running in the woods soaked in blood while being chased by pure malevolence.

They arrive at the farm, meet the family and go to bed. All this occurs in less than ten minutes. After which the Killer arrives. I capitalize the K because that’s what this man is. To be “The Killer” is the only function he serves. He barely talks. We see his face but it might as well be a mask. He rapes and kills and that is it. He has no personality beyond pervert and psychopath.

Of course, this fits perfectly with the movie’s logic. If you were in a house late at night and someone burst through the door to massacre every last person in the household would you really get to know him too well? Didn’t think so.

The movie is claustrophobic and told through the eyes of Marie, the only person to escape the Killer’s attention. He kidnaps Alex and runs off in his battered old van (That looks way too much like the Creeper’s van from “Jeepers Creepers” to be a coincidence) after doing unspeakable things to the rest of the family, including Alex’s little brother. We know right then and there that we’re not watching another tired and safe Hollywood thriller.

Marie gives chase, at first just wanting to call the police and then finally realizing that only she can stop this maniac before he kills Alex. She has to hurry because be has a photo collage of several girls taped to the rear view mirror of his truck. A collage to which he adds Alex’s picture.

A film can only be judged by one thing: Did it accomplish what it set out to do?

“Haute Tension” is a movie that wants you to squirm in your seat and judged by that standard, it works brilliantly. Which is why the ending is a little bit of a letdown. Not because it cranks down the tension but because it tries a little bit too hard to crank it up while being clever and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it cheats you when it didn’t need to. A quieter ending would have worked much better. Aja tries to crank us up one last time to milk his plot for all it’s worth and breaks the crank.

Personally, I think the film is amazing and I loved it. However, those last ten minutes could have been redone with no harm to anything that went on before. That said, I’m 100% sure that the inevitable American remake is going to try to outdo this movie, amplifying the flaws tenfold and thus falling right on it’s ass. Let’s pray that it does, flaws or no flaws this film doesn’t deserve the raping at the hands of a Michael Bay protégé.

I believe that there are plans for a release under the title “High Tension” and for sure this will be an audience pleaser. The crowd I saw it with loved every second, trying to mask their discomfort with laughter. One or two sadists cheered the bloody killings. All in all, I think the director would be pleased. This is the reaction I think he was looking for. If the dubbing isn’t too bad, this could be bigger than “Brotherhood of The Wolf”.

The film works, the ending is a little iffy, but the film works. That alone makes it worthy of watching in an age of disposable summer entertainment.



Posted on October 30, 2005 in Reviews by
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