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Overall Rating
3.11

Awesome: 17.56%
Worth A Look30.53%
Average: 16.03%
Pretty Bad: 16.79%
Total Crap: 19.08%

9 reviews, 77 user ratings


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High Tension
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by Doug Bentin

"It doesn't make a helluva lot of sense, but who says it has to?"
4 stars

The horror film reviewing and watching communities were split recently when the 2003 French giallo “Haute Tension” (“High Tension”) finally went into wide release in North America. Some of the discord can be laid at the paws of distributor Lions Gate for its odd manipulation of the product, but most of it raises questions of just what horror films are, where they come from in the imagination, and how they should be reviewed.

Not to sound like a whiner or anything, but movie reviewers have their professional problems, too. But first, let me tell you about the reasonably new—it’s been on the festival circuit for a couple of years now—French thriller, “High Tension.”

Cecile de France plays Marie, a young woman who is accompanying her female friend Alex (Maiwenn) to the isolated farm house occupied by Alex’ father, mother, and young brother. The house, in the middle of a corn field, is more than a bit run-down. Hinges and doors squeak in the best tradition of cinematic Bad Places and Alex’ pere (Andrei Finti) is photographed in ways that make you think he may have more on his mind than giving Marie a pleasant weekend in the country. Hanging over the place and the people is that indefinable air of creepiness you can sometimes feel when you’re a stranger in a strange land.

It seems that almost immediately everyone heads off to bed. Marie is given the guest bedroom, which is alone and above the family’s rooms. You’re not quite sure that she feels comfortable in this place, but she puts on her headphones, lies down on the bed, and begins to masturbate.

After everyone but Marie has gone to sleep, an oddly armored truck pulls up at the house and the driver, a cover-all suited maniac who looks a little like a demented Albert Finney (it’s really Philippe Nahon) steps up to the door and begins pounding on it. Alex’ father goes to check on the mysterious visitor and is quickly and bloodily killed.

Mom is next and when little brother tries to escape into the corn, the killer follows him with a shotgun. Bye-bye, baby.

The grubby murderer returns to the house to abduct Alex. Since we have earlier seen him doing the nasty with another girl’s disconnected head, we know that this kidnapping does not bode well for his latest victim.

Let me pause for a moment to tell you that Lions Gate Films, after boasting that they would release the film uncut, chickened out and edited it down to an “R” rating. Given the degree of violence and gore that is left in, one has to wonder what will be included on the DVD.

The film goes from being about innocence stalked to evil pursued as Marie borrows a car to chase the killer and rescue her friend. The bad guy seemed to suspect that there was someone else in the house, but he couldn’t find her and so settles for what he already has.

Whether or not she succeeds in her rescue attempt is at the heart of the movie’s second half. I won’t go into detail about what happens.

Now this is where we get to the reviewer’s problem, and it’s one that arises with most horror films. How much slack do you give a film of this sort when it comes to illogical plotting? Should it all make perfect sense when you look back over it, or do you allow for the fact that horror films are visualized nightmares and nightmares follow a logic—or illogic—all their own.

When this works well within the framework of an individual film, we tend to comment approvingly on its surreal quality. When it works badly, we just bitch that it doesn’t make sense and let it go at that.

European horror films, since the height of the Italian giallo boom in the late 1960s-mid-1970s, have tended to put scaring the audience before all other concerns, including following the dictates of reason and even physical possibility. I can’t go into details re “High Tension” without giving away some important plot points, but the picture is full of things that just couldn’t happen in the real world. But they’re scary as hell.

Is that enough with this kind of picture, or should we demand that narrative logic follow real world models? We’ve all been frustrated when secondary dim bulb protagonists go into a dark room and then walk backwards. We know they’re going to bump into something they’d prefer to avoid. When we were children, we screamed at the screen to tell the character s/he was doing something even a goofy little kid wouldn’t do.

Is such behavior on the part of the characters just a horror movie cliché, or does it represent visually the disorientation of dreams? (Probably both.)

I have become convinced that the illogic of horror movie narrative derives from the Gothic concern with dreams, and as such it is not a basis for condemning the film.

Lions Gate has partially dubbed the film, but left most of it in French. During the “most of it,” there is little dialogue. Maybe this odd blend of English and French is just Lions Gate’s way of adding to the unreality. Or it could just be their way of saving a buck or two.

“High Tension” was written by Gregory Levasseur and director Alexandre Aja, and as a vehicle for keeping you on the edge of your seat, it works just dandy, thank you. If that’s what you want, and you can live with those hey-wait-a-minute moments, go for it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8555&reviewer=405
originally posted: 07/12/05 01:46:04
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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

2/21/17 morris campbell intense but the twist is 2 familiar 4 stars
4/25/15 David Hollingsworth not the best horror movie, but not the worst 3 stars
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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