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Movie Review: High Tension

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Warning: Paragraph four contains comments that some may perceive as spoilers.

After a few mildly distracting overdubs, High Tension’s viscera begins to churn, and from there, it never lets up. Within High Tension’s first hour or so there is much to praise; the terror is top-shelf, the score (which is comprised of more wind, creaks, and static rather than music) is outstanding, and the killer is perhaps the most psychotic and merciless in recent horror history. However, during the film’s off-kilter climax, all hell breaks loose. In terms of horror, suspense, and tension, High Tension does indeed rank high, but in its final ten minutes, this otherwise superlative feature spirals into senselessness.

In an overused fashion, High Tension reveals a piece of the conclusion in its opening sequence. The audience observes the film’s lead running through the woods—covered in blood with a stab wound to the stomach. This scene builds a platform as to where the rest of the film will lead.

Rewind one day. Alex (Maïwenn) and her friend Marie (Cecile de France) are traveling to Alex’s house to cram for their upcoming college exams. Once they arrive, Alex introduces Marie to her mother, father, and brother, and shows Marie her room. When the lights go out, a creepy truck – reminiscent of the vehicle seen in Jeepers Creepers – approaches the house. A man (Philippe Nahon) exits this vehicle, rings the doorbell, and – once he is greeted at the door – begins butchering every member of Alex’s family. It is not until Alex is chained, gagged, and thrown into the back of the killer’s rusty truck, when Marie attempts to fend for both her and her friend’s lives.

How the entire production team sat through the filming of this feature without screaming, “Wait! Stop! None of this makes sense!” is absolutely beyond me. The filmmakers’ have previously tried to explain the picture’s numerous plot holes by claiming that the story is supposed to be told through the deranged killer’s point of view. However, this still doesn’t explain how one person can be in two different places at the same time on more than one occasion. If only Aja had stuck to convention and avoided an attempt at ingenuity, his effort would have then been one of the most impressive horror films to date.

Without the twist, this film would have easily been given a three-and-one-half star rating, but because Aja takes the most irrational of routes – thereby plummeting the plot into utter implausibility – High Tension drops a full star on the rating scale. For those who are true horror aficionados, High Tension is worth a trip to the theater, but, upon exiting, everyone will almost certainly share in my frustration. If you enjoy copious amounts of blood and gore, High Tension is the fix you have been looking for, but if you possess a functional brain, the territory the film treads into will easily prove to be illogical. Unlike Maxwell House, this bloody ode to American horror is not “good ‘til the last drop”; sadly, in the case of High Tension, it is the last drop that spoils the whole pot. (**1/2 out of ****)

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About Brandon Valentine

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Nice review of the film. I loved the film until the big twist. It doesn’t hold up under any type of scrutiny. I wish they had stayed with the hardcore 70’s 80’s style horror flick.

    Also, this should probably be called a Movie review. Not much of a DVD review.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/community/ceciledefrance Kelly

    >The filmmakers’ have previously tried to explain the picture’s numerous plot holes by claiming that the story is supposed to be told through the deranged killer’s point of view. However, this still doesn’t explain how one person can be in two different places at the same time on more than one occasion. ”

    Um yes it does. In the beginning of the film, Marie begins telling the hospital staff her story “Are they recording?”. Therefore Marie can tell any story she wants, she’s crazy and doesn’t see herself as the killer. And that explains perfectly why the two characters of the killer and Marie exist at the same time on more than one occasion. Nothing Marie says has happened could have happened that way at all! Which is why I would love to see a sequel! :)

    -Kelly

  • caitlin

    i get what the movie is supposed to be about but it doesn’t explain how stuff happens at the same time…someone please explain to me this unexplainable movie!!!

  • Blkpoetx

    well it’s simple.. she is recounting the events. she is telling her story of what occurred. that the first half the the movie, Alex Point of view starts from the time she is released out of the truck, and Alex recount begans, and we have Alex account layered with Maries account.

  • http://bvalentine.blogspot.com Brandon Valentine

    It isn’t that simple. If this (that she is just recounting the events) were true, the movie would be a near masterpiece. I truthfully enjoyed every moment of this picture’s horror, but the fact of the matter is that this “retelling theory” is never made clear. If Aja would have made it more apparent that she was giving her side of the story, maybe by inserting a few interrogation scenes, then the film would not be as flawed as it is. Then again, if Aja would’ve taken the time in making it obvious that Marie was merely giving a testimony of the events, the twist might have been predictable. I see your points, but to put it simply, there just isn’t enough evidence to support this claim. This is why the vast majority of those who view High Tension will leave their chairs more irritated and confused rather than amazed and enthused.

  • killa q

    I finally looked at the movie the other day and I am along with everyone else. What in the heck is going on here?! When they show the girl on the video at the gas station, I was like HUH?! What the?! It was a very good movie until that crazy plot twist or whatever the producers want to call it happened. I bet when the girl was playing with hereself she was thinking about her friend. HAHA!!! The next person who does a movie like that needs to get a raspberry award for making such a good and unexplainable movie at the same time.

  • Sam

    Alright, i just watched the movie for the first time, and along with everyone else here. Im going to have to agree, when they showed the video from the gas station i jumped out of my seat litterally and said wtf!?!? I get the movie, but its obsurd. Alex should have knew something was up with maria, i mean she didnt notice the butch hair? AND HOW THE WHOLE STORE SEEN GO? was she talking to ‘jimmy’ telling him to get her liquor? so the truck was fake? She was on a road trip, where did she get the chains? yes this movie makes so much sense, but at the same time its obsurd. This movie makes a oxymoron.

  • chelsea

    dude, this movie was the gayest movie i have ever seen! i get it, but what is the point….. the best part was when she was killing the family in the beggining, especially the mom. haha, i laughed and jumped when she moved. gorey parts are the bomb!!!!!!! =]

  • s

    I just saw this and had to do something I have never done before with a horror flick; think about it. The plot doesn’t make sense, the impossibility of her being in two places at once, the gas station scene, all of it doesn’t add up. Then I realized something…she is telling her recollection of what happened and we are seeing, for the most part, her perception of reality. Clearly, she is mentally ill. My experience with the mentally ill is that their line of reasoning doesn’t have to follow reality, and this illogical recount is what we are seeing in this movie. You can pout all you like about the ending, but it doesn’t make this a poorly thought out movie. We are having the story told to us by what we at the psychiatric hospital call an “unreliable historian”. She isn’t lying, she is delusional, and she in no way believes that the killer could be her. Plain and simple. Don’t believe everything you see here.

  • Unholy Ghxst

    Thank you “s” for making this clear to us all.