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Overall Rating
3.1

Awesome: 17.83%
Worth A Look30.23%
Average: 15.5%
Pretty Bad: 17.05%
Total Crap: 19.38%

9 reviews, 75 user ratings


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High Tension
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by Collin Souter

"There's a little bit of loser in all of us"
2 stars

Boy, did I love “High Tension.” I loved the mood, the overall feeling of dread and despair. I loved the low lighting. I loved the way it opened with the sun setting in the distant background, as though the bright, comfortable world in which these two characters live would soon come to an end. I loved the low budget look of the film. I loved the go-for-broke, take-no-prisoners attitude that has been sorely lacking in the horror genre for too long. I loved the music, the sound, the lack of sound and the feeling of actually being scared. Director Alexandre Aja pushes all the right buttons to create a savage and memorable horror film. What’s not to love?

I guess I should re-write the first sentence. Boy, did I love High Tension…that is, until it became just another stupid movie at the multiplex. I swear, the movie had me on such a high, I almost felt as though I was watching a re-birth of the genre. Horror has too long been saddled with PG-13 ratings, creepy children and music video-like cutting accompanied by backward sound loops. They’ve become boring. High Tension starts out shunning all the contemporary conventions by boiling the genre down to its basic components: Here’s the house in the middle of nowhere, here’s the mad slasher, here are the loser victims.

The movie sticks to that formula pretty well and for a while, it reminds us of the beautiful simplicity employed by other films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and The Hitcher. Aja’s use of white noise during the film’s most tense moments keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as they hope against hope for the safety of the two leads, Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn…yeah, just Maiwenn. It’s a French thing). Following the slaying of her family, Alex gets taken as a prisoner by the film’s ruthless killer (Phillipe Nahon) and Marie chases after him in hopes of rescuing her (I really shouldn’t say any more).

Pretty simple stuff. There’s nothing wrong with making a horror movie that one can describe in one sentence. Heck, two words: Slasher and Film. You need not say more. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to High Tension and that “more” is not good. While the movie maintains a refreshingly old school approach, it completely sabotages its chance at greatness for a conventional storytelling gimmick that has plagued not just horror movies, but thrillers in general with a twist ending that is meant to blow your mind and bring clueless friends along for a second helping.

To add insult to injury, Lions Gate released this French movie in a half dubbed, half subtitled version. The dubbing sounds flat and impersonal, the way it usually does. I’m not sure why the studio would bother. Foreign films have been doing okay over the years and since there’s not much dialogue to speak, why not just leave it as is? We know when we’re hearing unnatural voices while seeing the lips say something else. Personally, I think people who voluntarily watch dubbed versions of foreign films on DVD are the same people who listen to abridged audio books.

But that’s the least of the movie’s problems. I generally rate movies on a 4-star system and I can’t remember the last time a movie went from a 3 ½ star rating to a 2-star rating so quickly (about 15 seconds). I almost feel as though I’m being too generous, but defenders of this film have been correct about the craftsmanship of director Aja. He has the skill to create a truly memorable piece of cinema if given the right script. As for this film, I walked out feeling insulted, cheated and saddened that I could not recommend a great horror film to my friends. In the end, it’s just another stupid movie at the multiplex. The more I think about it, the more I hate it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8555&reviewer=233
originally posted: 06/13/05 13:29:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Indie Fest. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 City of Lights / City of Angels Film Festival. For more in the 2004 City of Lights / City of Angels Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/22/13 Catarina sorry, but this is really awesome. If u didn't get the end or wtver please replay the movie 5 stars
1/08/12 James Ross A claustrophobic masterpiece of psychological terror unleashed in a delusion 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan one of the best french extreme movies 4 stars
10/27/09 agent cooper most disappointing twist ever. Terrible. 1 stars
5/27/09 Andres Worst plot twist ever. I givi it one star for the BJ scene 1 stars
2/08/09 FrankNFurter The "twist" ending was as funny as the remake of the Wicker Man.And that's not a compliment 1 stars
1/15/09 gc very well done horror movie, better in original french with the subtitles on 4 stars
6/19/08 mtgmsn how was she in the back of the truck and driving at the same time? Great Gore 4 stars
6/15/08 ewen whose army the twist sucked b/c the material evidence doesn't make sense - old van? buzzsaw? what?! 3 stars
2/17/08 ben dover pure horror awesome 5 stars
12/10/07 Ted Predictable ripoff of better films, then unbelievable homophobic psychocrap, instantly. 1 stars
12/03/07 Bnorm Great movie until the end. Are you freaking kidding me? Was that necessary? 3 stars
8/03/07 itchmr gruesome play on the split personality genre with jealousy at the root 3 stars
5/18/07 Kevin FItzgerald The ending was awesome, great great great movie 5 stars
4/28/07 Dark Enchantress great ending! 5 stars
4/03/07 kaplan Hign tension indeed, unfortunate twist, could've worked but contradicted elements in film 3 stars
1/24/07 action movie fan has some chills but is pretty much a routing slasher flick 3 stars
1/12/07 scooter This movie does make sense. The beginning and the dream sequence provided clues! 4 stars
12/15/06 T. McGregor Best French slasher ever. didn't care for the twist ending though. 4 stars
11/24/06 David Pollastrini didn't see that twist coming 4 stars
8/17/06 K.Sear Those who say it makes no sense, watch the first 5 minutes again. 4 stars
8/05/06 Agent Sands Maybe the end sucks, but the film's suspense is refreshingly effective. 4 stars
7/14/06 raul valdez Jr ok stuff. 4 stars
6/13/06 Tasia I really liked this movie...very original...pretty creepy 4 stars
6/05/06 misty It's really scary and a awesome movie. 5 stars
5/15/06 Max The Reason it doesnt make sense is because the killer is psychotic! It's a Great Movie 5 stars
5/12/06 ES Save your time and please save your money 1 stars
4/20/06 malcolm doesn't quite add up at the end, but still f-ing scary 3 stars
3/30/06 NeoMalfoy My mother told me if I didn't have anything nice to say... that I should shut the fuck up! 1 stars
3/28/06 Total Crap STUPID!!!!!!! Twist makes no sense. Where'd the rusty van come from? Doi. 1 stars
3/07/06 Brett At least she fingers herself. The rest blew. 2 stars
2/14/06 Roy Smith The twist? Fight Club ending. Saved you 2 hrs of yawning. 1 stars
1/01/06 Indrid Cold The climax doesn't disappoint, but the rest is a yawnfest. 3 stars
11/27/05 othree flol 'fight club endings, ya, disturbing! scary though 4 stars
11/06/05 Ashley Sucks so badly.. it is beyond unoriginal and totally predictable! Everyone seems to schizo 1 stars
11/05/05 ELI Besides freddy got fingered, this is the most disgusting movie like, EVER.Makes no sense 2. 1 stars
10/25/05 tatum Possibly the most nonsensical twist ending in movie history 1 stars
10/17/05 Agent Sands One of the most engaging and suspenseful horror films in a long time. 5 stars
10/16/05 K. Sear Think "The Usual Suspects" and the plot suddenly makes more sense and becomes palatable. 4 stars
10/11/05 Tom Burns A very bloody, and enjoyable horror movie, the ending made no sense though. 5 stars
10/07/05 Max The best Movie i saw in my life...Really, i almost ate my arms .Ps salut Dug ;)!! 5 stars
8/23/05 ES Dubbed garbage, as scary as a wet towel, atrocious! 1 stars
7/31/05 Diana They stole the plot from Dean Koontzs novel Intensity 1 stars
7/12/05 yarg_thepirate frankly, I am tirof fight club endings. unoriginal and boring 1 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler Good ultraviolent thriller save the unbelievable ending 4 stars
7/03/05 Alexandra Harden ok until the end. The end made no sense at all and pissed me off 1 stars
6/24/05 windrider The twist IS the story, knowing PoV is everything in appreciating this film 5 stars
6/16/05 Connie Kidd the ending did not make sense with some of the previous scenes 4 stars
6/15/05 Z Rambo Poor ending leads me to believe that the writer is unoriginal and lazy. 2 stars
6/14/05 Roberta Dawson Finally, a horror film that actually frightened me! 5 stars
6/14/05 jackie gonzales rip of of the beginning of Dean Koontz Intensity read this book it is way better then this 2 stars
6/14/05 E-FUNK Thid film is a direct rip-off of Dean Koontz's 'Intensity'. The ending is insulting. Fuck. 1 stars
6/13/05 Jim The Movie Freak For the love of GOD, please STOP with the twist endings already! The film didn't need it 3 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands Tight, incredible suspense! Refreshing after a long streak of Hollywood bullshit. 5 stars
6/11/05 dangermaus pretty darn scary 4 stars
6/11/05 ana Dont want my money to sponsor Romanian pseudo talents backed by second hand French artists. 1 stars
6/11/05 Krisan Graves Too slasheresq! Only for hard core slasher people, lots of blood... 2 stars
6/11/05 C Hernandez Skeery! Shocking ending. An instant classic. 5 stars
6/09/05 ed good movie. a few loose ends .. violent 4 stars
5/30/05 Alex Well-made, awful story. The trick ending is far worse than "Identity". 1 stars
5/29/05 hellray kick ass 5 stars
5/21/05 Mider Even if you hate the ending the whole of the movie itself was worth watching. 5 stars
5/07/05 K. Sear I should hate it but, I find I can forgive it's shortcoming's. A brave attempt. 4 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK The worst, cop-out "M Night Shyamalan-inspired shit ending ever. Ruined the entire film. 1 stars
3/24/05 Isperih Karaivanov Blood-fueled rollercoaster! 5 stars
11/10/04 MorallySound SODA, I belive its the 70's grindhouse horror flicks! AWESOME MOVIE! WOW! 5 stars
6/14/04 Anders Valming Solid Classic! 5 stars
5/10/04 rtytdfty jjj 5 stars
4/15/04 von I'm willing to overlook the last 20 mins because the first 3/4 are as good as horror gets. 5 stars
4/05/04 wil It was pretty good. The death scenes rocked! 4 stars
3/19/04 Tim Nicolls Terrifyingly violent, gripping, suspenseful; but then comes the frustrating ending. 4 stars
3/12/04 SODA This is a return to the 80s style slasher films...pure tension! More like this please... 5 stars
3/10/04 garrett varner A great slasher movie that tries to hard to become phsycological at its conclusion. 4 stars
3/07/04 Mike Falcigno I couldn't take my eyes off this film. I only wish I had more space to comment! DAMNMIT!!! 4 stars
2/16/04 Marco Pietri Personally i think this movie is awesome, it builds up tension pretty good 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005

UK
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Australia
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