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Overall Rating

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 Scott Weinberg

"Something old, something new, quite a bit borrowed...and a whole lotta gore"
4 stars

Given its reputation as a lofty and artistic entity, one might not expect to find too many horror flicks screening at the Sundance Film Festival. This year, at least, you'd be dead wrong.

Horror movies are, for the most part, sneered at and dimissed as mild diversions (at best) cinematic junk food (at worst). Yet one could quite capably argue that creating an effective horror movie is actually harder than mounting a dramatic piece or a bedroom farce - becuase while other films are content to present character studies or well-timed flurries of humor, the horror film is out to make you feel uneasy. The ones that can pull it off consistently for 90-some minutes are worthy of high marks indeed.

And despite a few niggling roadblocks (and a wild plot divergence that seems to make very little first glance), the slasher flick from France known as Haute Tension (that's High Tension for those of us not from Quebec, and Switchblade Romance to folks in other English-speaking nations) proves to be quite the dastardly dark and entertaining jolt-fest...if, of course, you don't mind your "cat & mouse thriller"s a little on the 'outlandishly gory' side.

The plot is simplicity itself: Marie and Alex are two adorable young French women who show up at the Family Farmhouse to enjoy a quiet vacation away from school. Not three hours after the girls arrive, a hulking and sweaty aggressor rings the front doorbell and promptly cracks a huge hole in Daddy's head, thus beginning a 70-some minute nightmare from Hunter to Hunted...with a few unpredictable rest stops along the way.

Suffice to say that Haute Tension offers generous doses of hiding, a fair share of seeking, a whole lot of chasing, and six or seven grimly enjoyable dispatches for the Gorehounds to enjoy. I can already see the fine folks at Lion's Gate priming Haute Tension for a R-rated theatrical release and an Unrated DVD release; there's no way the version I saw could escape the MPAA with anything less than an NC-17; so the heavy stuff goes bye-bye for a few months, and then we can enjoy the Haute Tension DVD the way it was meant to be seen: with huge geysers of gore, and with one of the most stunningly unsettling beheadings I've ever had the pleasure to see in a horror film. [Note: I was wrong! Lions Gate is reportedly going ahead with an NC-17 release. Good for them!]

[Dean Koontz fans take note: Though I'd never be one to accuse a young filmmaker of stealing ideas from a pre-existing work, it's plainly clear that there's a stunning similarity between much of Haute Tension and Koontz's best-seller Intensity. The author almost seems to deserve a 'story by' credit!]

Visually, Haute Tension a grimy, gooey treat. The settings are sparse and deserted, the kills are graphic and grotesque, and there's a palpable sense of grungy intensity and desperation that helps seal the deal as a whole. Upstart director Alexandre Aja clearly grew up on the finest slasher flicks that the 1980s had to offer, and his affection for the genre shines clearly through. From the gloomy and nasty little sound effects to the heaping helpings of slick, grimy grue (and all of the breathless moments of silence in between), Aja touches upon many of the horror fans' most beloved components. (Not the least of which is a massive man-monster who wields a mean axe.)

The end result is a flick that's hardly a classic (and it's far from the most unique story ever told), but one that should absolutely have the Gorehounds squealing contentedly with delight. And there's that "one" moment...the one that will cause huge debates and internet discussion for months to come...but I can't say any more about that...not until everyone else has the movie, anyway.

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originally posted: 01/29/04 13:40:59
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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
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  10-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



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