"High Tension" New Wave French Horror #3

High Tension

This is the third of four reviews of the new wave in French horror. “High Tension” or “Switchblade Romance” as it is also called was made in 2003 and was the movie that really set this whole wave into motion. Director Alexandre Aja whose American film debut in 2006 was the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” was given rave reviews earlier on my blog. His next film “Mirrors” was a huge disappointment and now with “Piranha 3-D” will be hitting theaters later this summer. Let hope for the best.

“High Tension” is a well paced, well made horror classic until the final act almost kills it in a hugely illogical WTF twist. Two female college students Marie and Alex drive out to Alex’s parent's place in the country to study for exams. Marie is a tall, muscular and smart girl with a very short blonde haircut that reminds you of Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby”. Marie and Alex are best friends, but even though they talk about possible boyfriends. Marie seems to be more interested in a serious relationship with Alex. When everybody goes to bed, just like in the previous movie “Inside”, a knock at the front door in the middle of the night set the rest of the movie in motion.

A stocky older man dressed in a grungy old work jumpsuit and a baseball hat goes to town on Alex’s family. He is a silent evil force to be reckoned with, kind of like a Michael Myers type killer. Marie and the killer play this kind of cat and mouse game and is able to stay hidden. The kills are quite brutal and visceral. Even their little boy is dispatched with as he tries to escape into the cornfield. The killer takes Alex with him to who knows where, while Marie is able to tag along without him knowing. There is a tension filled scene at a truck stop when the killer becomes aware of Marie. These two have it out in the woods later and this also starts the completely bullshit third act. I give the filmmakers credit for having the balls to take the story in this direction, but with everything we’ve seen so far, this last part really makes no sense. That being said I still think this is one of the best horror movies in the last decade. The characters are smart and so is the script. It piles on the blood and gore and is thoroughly satisfying.