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Overall Rating
3.11

Awesome: 17.56%
Worth A Look30.53%
Just Average: 16.03%
Pretty Crappy: 16.79%
Sucks: 19.08%

9 reviews, 77 user ratings


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High Tension
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by Mel Valentin

"A nasty piece of work strictly for slasher fans."
3 stars

"High Tension," a “new” French serial killer/slasher film (it was released in France two years ago) inspired by 70s American slasher films (as well as Dario Argento’s blood-spattered “giallo” films), is every bit as bloody and violent as its well-deserved “R” rating (for “graphic bloody killings, terror, sexual content, and language”). To get that “R” rating, however, Lions Gate and the director Alexandre Aja (thankfully) trimmed a minute of explicit violence from "High Tension." Even trimmed by only a minute, "High Tension" is a nasty piece of work, unrelenting, nihilistic, brutal, and often difficult to watch. It’s, in short, the perfect flick for slasher/horror fans with strong (or empty) stomachs.

Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco), university classmates and friends, retreat to a rural farm owned by Alex’s family. Marie and Alex plan on spending their weekend studying for university exams. The relationship between Marie and Alex is spiked with conflict and jealousy, as well as unspoken desire. At the farm, Marie meets Alex’s family, her mother (Oana Pellea), father (Andrei Finti), and young brother, Tom (Marco Claudiu Pascu). After a quiet evening together, the family goes to bed. Marie stays up, listening to music over headphones. A beat up truck drives up to the farm. A middle-aged man in dirty overalls and a grungy baseball cap ((Phillipe Nahon) emerges from the truck. The father answers the doorbell. The nightmare (and the hacking, slicing, and slashing) begins. One of the two women will become what genre enthusiasts (and academics) refer to as the "last girl": the last survivor faced with the daunting task of confronting the serial killer, defeating him conclusively, and saving her friend, with her only with her ingenuity, will to live, and whatever farm implement happens to be within reach for help.

Alexandre Aja, working from a taut, streamlined script co-written with Gregory Levasseur, directs every scene for maximum, visceral impact, whether in creating or sustaining suspense (a lengthy scene inside a gas station deserves special mention, as does a later chase scene on an abandoned highway), or in the Grand Guignol set pieces, where Aja’s makeup technicians display unerring skill in depicting the aftereffects of the slasher’s handiwork. Although several of the more bloody, violent scenes have been trimmed for content, those edits have been limited to penetration shots (the audience still sees the before and after of each blow, in gruesome detail). The static-filled music score by Francois Eudes serves to create an unsettled, unsettling mood, perfect for a tightly wound slasher flick. And, of course, the homage to American slasher flicks seems to permeate every frame, culminating in a scene that pays direct tribute to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Unfortunately, Aja and Levasseur weren’t satisfied with making a straightforward slasher. If they had, High Tension would have stood a chance of becoming a “cult classic” in short order. Instead, Aja and Levasseur indulge in a patently absurd third-act plot turn that completely undermines and overturns the premise (and makes the events that follow superfluous). Note to Aja and Levasseur: next time, don’t borrow a major plot turn from a well known, if controversial, Hollywood film released in the last five or six years. Aja, in conjunction with Lions Gate, has also made the inexplicable decision to dub only part of High Tension into English (the early scenes with the family that precede the serial killer’s first attack). Frankly, the dubbing is atrocious (e.g., out-of-sync with mouth movements), and given that most of High Tension unfolds without dialogue, unnecessary.

One minor issue is also worth mentioning: the press notes indicate that Marie and Alex are college students, but the actresses were closer to thirty than twenty at the time "High Tension" was produced. Their obvious age makes it difficult to accept them as anything but graduate students. There’s also a 20-year age difference between Alex and her younger brother that's also left unresolved. Viewers might be inclined to speculate that Alex is the brother's "real" biological mother, not his older sister (he, of course, would be unaware of that particular fact). That speculation, of course, is better left for another kindler, gentler slasher film (if one exists).

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8555&reviewer=402
originally posted: 06/10/05 01:42:22
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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

2/20/17 morris campbell intense but the twist is 2 familiar 4 stars
4/24/15 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
10/26/09 agent cooper most disappointing twist ever. Terrible. 1 stars
5/26/09 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
1/14/09 gc very well done horror movie, better in original french with the subtitles on 4 stars
6/18/08 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
2/16/08 ben dover pure horror awesome 5 stars
12/10/07 Ted Predictable ripoff of better films, then unbelievable homophobic psychocrap, instantly. 1 stars
12/02/07 Bnorm Great movie until the end. Are you freaking kidding me? Was that necessary? 3 stars
8/02/07 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
4/27/07 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
1/23/07 action movie fan has some chills but is pretty much a routing slasher flick 3 stars
1/11/07 scooter This movie does make sense. The beginning and the dream sequence provided clues! 4 stars
12/14/06 T. McGregor Best French slasher ever. didn't care for the twist ending though. 4 stars
11/23/06 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
8/04/06 Agent Sands Maybe the end sucks, but the film's suspense is refreshingly effective. 4 stars
7/13/06 raul valdez Jr ok stuff. 4 stars
6/13/06 Tasia I really liked this movie...very original...pretty creepy 4 stars
6/04/06 misty It's really scary and a awesome movie. 5 stars
5/14/06 Max The Reason it doesnt make sense is because the killer is psychotic! It's a Great Movie 5 stars
5/11/06 ES Save your time and please save your money 1 stars
4/19/06 malcolm doesn't quite add up at the end, but still f-ing scary 3 stars
3/29/06 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
3/06/06 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
12/31/05 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
11/05/05 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
10/24/05 tatum Possibly the most nonsensical twist ending in movie history 1 stars
10/16/05 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
10/10/05 Tom Burns A very bloody, and enjoyable horror movie, the ending made no sense though. 5 stars
10/06/05 Max The best Movie i saw in my life...Really, i almost ate my arms .Ps salut Dug ;)!! 5 stars
8/22/05 ES Dubbed garbage, as scary as a wet towel, atrocious! 1 stars
7/30/05 Diana They stole the plot from Dean Koontzs novel Intensity 1 stars
7/11/05 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
7/02/05 Alexandra Harden ok until the end. The end made no sense at all and pissed me off 1 stars
6/23/05 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
6/14/05 Z Rambo Poor ending leads me to believe that the writer is unoriginal and lazy. 2 stars
6/13/05 Roberta Dawson Finally, a horror film that actually frightened me! 5 stars
6/13/05 jackie gonzales rip of of the beginning of Dean Koontz Intensity read this book it is way better then this 2 stars
6/13/05 E-FUNK Thid film is a direct rip-off of Dean Koontz's 'Intensity'. The ending is insulting. Fuck. 1 stars
6/12/05 Jim The Movie Freak For the love of GOD, please STOP with the twist endings already! The film didn't need it 3 stars
6/11/05 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
6/10/05 C Hernandez Skeery! Shocking ending. An instant classic. 5 stars
6/09/05 ed good movie. a few loose ends .. violent 4 stars
5/29/05 Alex Well-made, awful story. The trick ending is far worse than "Identity". 1 stars
5/29/05 hellray kick ass 5 stars
5/20/05 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
4/25/05 E-FUNK The worst, cop-out "M Night Shyamalan-inspired shit ending ever. Ruined the entire film. 1 stars
3/23/05 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
6/13/04 Anders Valming Solid Classic! 5 stars
5/10/04 rtytdfty jjj 5 stars
4/14/04 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
3/11/04 SODA This is a return to the 80s style slasher films...pure tension! More like this please... 5 stars
3/09/04 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
2/15/04 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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