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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Fun, if a bit too tricky at the end."
4 stars

Anyone who resents the eleventh-hour tricks M. Night Shyamalan plays on the audience should probably steer clear of the notorious French slasher film "Haute Tension" (released in the U.S. as "High Tension" in June 2005). For most of its running time, though, this second feature by Alexandre Aja is a taut homage to '80s slash.

The blue lighting scheme is a tip of the chapeau to Dean Cundey's Halloween colors; the whole enterprise is a stripped-down-for-action throwback to the days of gratuitous nudity and splatter. Haute Tension is like a French art-house essay on slasher-movie clichés, and as such is good nasty fun.

Two college girls, Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), are heading to Alex's parents' remote boonies house for a weekend of studying. Here the plot differs from old-school slash in that no boyfriends are along for the ride in order to have sex and die. Actually, the pixie-ish Marie is a lesbian, with (we gather) some unrequited feelings for Alex. But all of that takes a back seat to the narrative's immediate threat — a hulking trucker (Philippe Nahon, from Gaspar Noé's Irreversible and I Stand Alone), who we first see in his ratty vehicle getting orally pleasured in a uniquely grotesque way (Aja must have seen Joel Reed's Bloodsucking Freaks). The killer, as he's named in the credits, heads to the remote house and wastes no time repainting the walls in crimson. He butchers Alex's family and kidnaps her, and Marie, who has remained in hiding, stows herself on his truck to save Alex from a certain fate of mutilation and extinction.

Haute Tension is as much a tribute to Halloween as Halloween was to Dario Argento's Suspiria. All three are bloody-minded exercises in style, narrowing the conflict down to a battle of wills between a willowy protagonist and implacable evil. Aja leaves few stones unturned, drawing the suspense out and borrowing liberally from old classics (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) as well as new (From Dusk Till Dawn, in a scene set in a gas station). Once the events are set in motion, precious little plot gets in the way of the story. Cécile De France, who reminded me of Patricia Arquette (particularly in Arquette's more feral, Gandolfini-pulping moments in True Romance), makes a fine smart survivor type, smart as well as brave (sometimes too brave, as when she consistently edges into rooms where the killer might still be prowling). The gruff Philippe Nahon brings his scowl and from-the-bowels-of-France voice to the killer; his casting here, to anyone who's seen his Noé films, is so on-the-money it's almost too obvious. I'd like to see him in a bubbly romantic comedy -- perhaps something in which he isn't a nihilistic misanthrope.

The screenplay's lesbian aspect adds a new wrinkle to the genre's standard I-must-rescue-my-girlfriend arc, and also a twist that some will find unpalatable — but then, Haute Tension has not been conceived as palatable on any level other than aesthetic. The film reads as though Aja wanted to make a classical slasher movie with a send-'em-out-buzzing finale that flips everything around. Unfortunately, it flips a bit too much. I won't give anything away, but very many logical questions will occur to the post-movie viewer; the movie simply won't withstand close scrutiny, and many viewers put off by the film's rather graphic brutality won't feel like revisiting the story to tie up the loose ends. For fans of the genre Aja is both working in and honoring, though, Haute Tension is worth at least a rental -- much of it is finely wrought suspense wedded to some of the nastiest carnage I've seen since The Passion of the Christ.

"Haute Tension" is available on R-rated or unrated DVD. Whichever version you see — the cuts really only amount to the usual difference between lingering shots of bloodshed and not-so-lingering shots, although a decapitation scene is noticeably trimmed — "Haute Tension" is a gory trip down memory lane. But if you don't dig twist endings, you might want to eject the disc after the final bout between Marie and her adversary. You won't be missing much.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8555&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/26/06 06:29:46
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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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