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Overall Rating

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 Elaine Perrone

"Lions Gate's decision to dub...What Gaul!"
2 stars

Director Alexandre Aja describes his 2003 French-Italian film Haute Tension (High Tension) as an ode to the 1970s American horror/slasher films he loved as a teenager. I would describe it as an audacious and unsettling little gore-fest – a stylishly depraved, if not always fully polished, white-knuckle ride that is as often unapologetically rude as it is riveting. Despite a preposterous third-act plot contrivance that makes a lie of all that has gone before, I loved Haute Tension to pieces (no pun intended). Unfortunately, it is not the same film that viewers will be seeing in American theatres and not the one that I will be reviewing here.

When Lions Gate Films picked up the North America distribution rights to Haute Tension, the company committed to releasing the film unedited, despite the threat of an NC-17 rating, and in its original French language, despite the notorious disdain of mainstream American audiences for subtitles. In fact, High Tension/Haute Tension was screened exactly as it was shot originally, with subtitles, at several North American festivals, to enthusiastic response by large numbers of less-than-mainstream filmgoers.

Talk, of course, is cheap, and business is business. The reality is that now, in June 2005, the “new,” re-edited version of High Tension is finally being wide-released to U.S. screens with an R rating and partially dubbed in English.

Having seen both versions, I can honestly say that, from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I didn’t find the cuts in the new version, which result in a total of about one minute of screen time lost, to be particularly objectionable. If one didn’t know that snippets had been excised, I seriously doubt there would be much of a blip on anyone’s gore-meter.

Likewise, from a purely practical standpoint, I can understand Lions Gate’s decision to opt for the R rating. Business being business, as previously noted, and shareholders being shareholders, it’s hard to mount a credible argument for a studio/distributor to fall on its sword for inclusion of one minute of footage that would result in a movie being boycotted not only on hundreds of screens but also in print advertising – even in those most liberal of cities that are still cowed by that Scarlet NC-17.

Conversely, that single excised minute of snippets is argument in itself for the illogic of the MPAA about what constitutes the difference between an R and the dreaded NC-17 rating.

Both versions of Haute Tension/High Tension feature an especially gruesome decapitation, the scene in the original version ending with the corpse’s head rolling across the floor. By the MPAA’s standards, the beheading was A-OK, but the head roll had to go. If one didn’t know what was there to begin with, that infinitesimal cut would surely go unnoticed. Still, it is informative – and frustrating – to understand what our arbiters deign to be acceptable for public consumption.

Likewise, the censors had something to say about scenes involving a ghastly throat slitting, the gutting of a convenience store clerk, and an horrific attack on a vehicle and its occupants with a circular saw. The mayhem stayed; the only thing altered was the amount of bloodshed, which was trimmed by a few seconds duration, in each case.

Chillingly, what I consider to be the movie’s single most repulsive scene – one depicting a crazed killer in a rusted-out van grunting as he performs fellatio on himself with the severed head of one of his victims, then tossing it out the window – made it past the censors intact in the R-rated version. One can only shake one’s own head in wonder, envisioning the suits sitting around a table pondering, ”OK, we’ll allow the giving of head, even if it’s with a disembodied one…but nix on the rolling head.” The mind boggles.

Still, for all the silliness involving the MPAA (Morality Police Asinine Arbitration?), the real travesty, and Lions Gate’s biggest insult to American audiences, is their own marketing gaffe – their harebrained decision to make the characters bilingual and partially dub (atrociously) the film into English. It’s not as if the movie were heavy on plot or driven by intricate dialogue. The set up is simple: Schoolmates and best friends Marie and Alex (Cécile de France, Maïwenn) sojourn for a study break in the remote French countryside, at the farmhouse of Alex’s family. Homicidal maniac (Philippe Nahon) intrudes. Mayhem ensues. De France dubbed her own voice in French-accented English, which helps, but even so, the dialogue is spare enough that even the most recalcitrant of moviegoers should have been able to manage the reading of a few extra subtitles without his or her lips getting tired.

The real joys of Haute Tension/High Tension lie in Aja’s love of – and deliciously nasty homage to – the genre, and in the film’s edgy look and sound, with special mention going to composer François Eudes, DP Maxime Alexandre, editor Baxter, and art director (and co-writer) Grégory Levasseur.

Their work will survive until Haute Tension is restored to its fully subtitled gory…er, glory…on DVD, at which time I will deem it “worth a look.” Until then, my recommendation is to give it a wait.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8555&reviewer=376
originally posted: 06/10/05 14:32:37
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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
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  10-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



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