The first thing I need to comment on, before I even begin the review, is Lion’s Gate Films decisions regarding this release. Why do you go and import a French film and then dub part of it and subtitle part of it? That just makes absolutely no sense. The film should have been entirely subtitled, you would think that after all these years of sub par dubs they would realize that dubbing has a vastly negative affect on the effectiveness of the film as a whole. Beyond that, if they were to dub, why not take some effort and make the dubbing sound as if it belongs there? The dubbing is awful, they did not seem to take the effort to lay the sound in with the background noise, so it has this awkward quality that seems to just lay on top of the rest of the sound bed. Now, on with the show.
This is the sort of film where you really can’t get into to much detail without giving the film away. The story is thin and the length is short making all of the details all the more important. Still, the film has some interesting aspects, about equal to the maddening aspects.
The film opens with a pair of friends, Marie and Alex, traveling the countryside in southern France. They are on their way to Alex’s parents home, presumably to study for classes away from distraction. It doesn’t take long before their plans are thrown into chaos.
We glimpse a rusty old truck, very reminiscent of the Creepermobile from Jeepers Creepers. There is an act being performed in the cab of said truck, and upon completion we realize that this is the bad guy. Later on that night the truck arrives at the secluded home and the killing begins. Pretty quickly we are back down to our original pair of young woman, one in chains, the other in pursuit of this jump suited killer.
It was during the household slaughter where I started to formulate my thoughts about the film. It struck me that the film was an experiment in terror, so to speak. Take a situation, which is so out there, don’t explain it, just focus on two characters and watch how they react in the situation. Taking this point of view and the film is fascinating. The more realistic take is obviously the victim, it is very easy to believe that a person would, essentially, fall into a state of shock. The more interesting though, is the one who decides to try and do something about it.
In this case, Marie is the one trying to do something. Right from the start she seems to be taking the smart proactive approach to the situation, but before long, things head south. Like any number of horror films before it, we watch her make what we all believe to be bad decisions. But the question here is would you make different decisions? No one knows how they are going to react in a given situation until you are in it. We all want to think that we would know what to do and that we are smarter than the on screen characters. But are we really?
That way of watching the film worked for most of the film. But then each and every viewer is betrayed by the filmmakers. I won’t say what the problem is, I don’t wish to spoil it for you. I will say, however, that it is completely impossible for what happens to happen based on what we know has happened. It almost feels that they needed to add another layer in an effort to “compete” with the other horror films of recent years. The problem is that it almost sinks the entire effort and effectively sinks my earlier point of view.
As a horror fan there is a lot to like in High Tension. There is a plentiful amount of gore, some gratuitous nudity, some bad decision making, a straightforward story. It was playing out as a throwback type of horror film with a modern flair for gore, until the previously mentioned screw up.
The acting is adequate, although I think my view is tempered by the dubbing. When the subtitles are in effect, there is a much more genuine feel to the film than the awful dub which generates unintentional humor. The gore effects are top notch. There are also some great looking shots, and there are three which stand out in my memory. One is a tracking shot following Marie up to and then around in her guest room. Next is a brief shot when Marie’s face emerges from the shadows to watch the killer and disappearing back into the inky black. Lastly, at the tail end of a car chase there is some great lighting through the trees.
Bottomline. Despite the edits (it was cut to get an R rating), the hack dub job, and the betrayal ending, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. The first two thirds build a great amount of tension and suspense. The first two thirds are excellent and the end is a letdown. I still recommend this for the horror fans in the house. I will be seeking this out as an import so I don’t have to deal with the dubbing.
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