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"Haute Tension" is one of the best horror films I have seen in years. It is appropriately gruesome and shocking and does not take the wise cracking, action movie based horror movie approach that so many recent horror films have taken. The film is well made and paced and builds up the suspense to a crescendo and does not overstay it's welcome. One would have found it unusual for French cinema to be the one to revitalize the horror genre which has become hackneyed and trite in Hollywood (so many want to refer to it as psychological thriller). The story follows 2 college co-eds visiting the homestead of one of the girl's family on a school break. A mysterious man in a mechanic jumpsuit and old truck (reminiscient of the one in "Jeepers Creepers")comes to the house in the night and brutally murders the family, kidnaps the girl and overlooks her friend who has to pursue the killer to rescue her friend. Director, Alexander Aja, does not make a pedestrian, light weight horror film and the deaths in the film are disturbing and brutal. There is no humor or comic relief and the blood literally soaks the camera lens. The sense of dread and the unrelenting suspense and pace makes this a refreshing breath of fresh air from all of the PG-13 rated "Scream" wannabes that have been hitting the multi-plexes. Wes Craven had reportedly seen "Haute Tension" at Sundance and has hand picked Alexander Aja to remake "The Hills Have Eyes" and have free artistic licence since Craven had pegged him as the "future of horror." There is even a plot twist which you will either love or hate but it fits in well with the film. The performances by Cecile de France, Maewenn and the actor who portrays the killer are perfect. All in all, this is a French film that deserves to be seen in American multiplexes and a must see for horror movie fans the world over who have been having to settle for mediocre horror for many years now.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite all the nice things that people have to say about this film,
the "plot twist" in it makes it an utter waste of time.
Spoilers follow, although I doubt I can spoil the movie any more than the director already did. Although I doubt it makes a difference because my complaint has to do broadly with the plot of this film, my review is based off the US theatrical release.
It starts off as a fairly standard chainsaw massacre type of flick, which to be completely honest, has never been my favorite genre, and ends as something I didn't think existed: a slasher flick with a plot so awful that it loses any value it may have had as a simple gore fest. It turns out that the main character has multiple personalities and is also the killer, or something to that effect. It's very hard to say exactly what happened in the movie because after that revelation, it is obvious that 99% of the movie must be dismissed as nonsensical.
If this trite twist is done in a clever way, it can make piecing together the plot preceding the revelation an interesting endeavor, but this movie didn't bother with being clever. The main character would have to be in two different places at the same time in the film so many times that there is no point in trying to put it all together. There is a car chase with vehicles driven by different aspects of the personality; one aspect rides to a remote house with her friend, the other drives a souped up murder wagon there. Obvious holes such as one personality getting an injury which persists through the remainder of the film in a car wreck which wouldn't have happened if she were actually in the other unwrecked vehicle the whole time, plague this film.
This is laziest attempt of a director springing a twist on the audience that I have seen. Picture some dimwit introducing their self to you as Chuck, having a conversation with you, then proudly revealing their name is actually Aja and that they really outsmarted you. Yeah, quite a zinger there, Aja. When the rest of a movie becomes completely nonsensical due to the addition of a plot twist, perhaps that twist could have been left out.
The film looks as though they decided to appeal to the psychological thriller market ( a genre where this sort of stunt is painfully common) so they filmed an extra scene or two and tossed it in to let the audience sort it out. It's obvious the director didn't try.
In the end, nothing fits together. The events as depicted in the movie obviously didn't happen the way they were shown to the audience. What did happen? Did anything actually happen or was it a psychopath's delusion? What was the point? A film that leaves itself open to interpretation is not a bad thing in itself, but in this case the audience has nothing to interpret because they are given nothing to work with and there is little incentive to bother.
The 70's and 80's produced what I consider to be the best horror films
ever made. There were more independent films being made 20 and 30 years
ago and that led to less studio intervention. I seriously doubt Sam
Raimi could have made his classic gore fest THE EVIL DEAD if The
Weinsteins were behind the scenes. And I know for a fact that Tobe
Hooper would never have gotten away with what he did to make Texas
CHAINSAW MASSACRE as shock inducing as he did. And finally, what I
consider is the most disturbing film ever made, never would have been
made if guys like Michael Ovitz were behind it. Could you imagine if
Ovitz was visiting the set of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, took a look at
the dailies and then said, "okay, that intestine part has to go, the
slapping of the naked girls has to be trimmed down and the fellatio
part has to be edited." Last House would not be the classic that it is
today and it certainly would not be a paradigm to all horror films that
many aspire to make today.
Now, what we have are a plethora of films that follow in M. Night Shyamalan's footsteps after his monster and genre defining hit SIXTH SENSE. It's a great film that puts the suspense back in horror. And as much as I love Sixth Sense, as much as I respect what Shyamalan has done to help redefine horror, too many of today's film makers try to emulate him and screw things up.
HIGH TENSION, for the first 80 minutes of the movie is a true testament to the basic primal animal that we are, or can be. It is an uncompromising and relentless attack of our senses, our nerves and our being. It shreds the neo horror film ideology that THE RING and Sixth Sense seemed to invent and instead grabs a hold of your intestines and squeezes and then twists. It is about as intense of a film as I have seen in quite some time. While not as sick and depraved as Last House on the Left, it treads in the same water. This has the look and feel of a 70's guts on the wall horror film and for that, I applaud Alexandre Aja for writing and directing a film that looks like it had very little studio intervention and as such the film is about as shocking a film as you will see from any North American distributed film.
High Tension's strength is that it is about as violent and blood soaked as any film from the period that it pays homage to. Gone is the horror film blueprint that teens seem to love today. This is a film made by a director that grew up perhaps admiring some of the greats from three decades ago. You can see homages to films like Friday THE 13TH, MADMAN, THE STEPFATHER, and of course Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There are at least 4 scenes in this film that truly shocked me. The violence is real, it is macabre and it is brutal. Blood spills, it flows, and it sprays. I have never seen someone get their throat slit, but I would imagine it would something like it does in this film.
The pace of the film is frenetic and at about the twenty minute mark, the dialogue pretty much stops and what we have is a cat and mouse game. Aja does his talking with chainsaws, barbed wire and a switchblade. There is much attention to detail in this film and I guess that sort of justifies the end, which is about as beguiling as any legerdemain present in any of the films since Sixth Sense.
The ending has to be mentioned because as I'm sure many of you know by now, the ending is unnecessary chicanery. It just didn't need to be there. But to be fair, the film does allude to the road it is embarking on, it just seems like an extrinsic path. The denouement of the film, can be a distraction and take away from the raw emotion the film does a great job of making you feel up until this point. And if you examine the film, you'll realize that what you have seen for the last 80 minutes is pretty much impossible. I took all of that into consideration before writing this review. And what it comes down to is this: The films is so perfect before the preposterous ending, that you can kind of ignore the impossibilities and chicanery. If you can just see the film for all of its brilliance before the last ten minutes, you'll love the pure terror that this film presents us with. But just a word of warning. The ending is misleading and dishonest.
This film is an amalgamation of Last House and Sixth Sense. The twist, which may have been attractive to the talking heads in charge of the studio, also takes away from the artistic integrity of the film. I, as other reviewers have mentioned, would much rather a psycho killer gone mad than a film that has to deceive us with a SLEEPAWAY CAMP type slap in the face. While Sleepaway Camp is a good film but not nearly in the class of High Tension, the ending fit there. Here, it is just plain wrong.
High Tension scores a 9/10 from me because it is about as good a horror film I have seen in the last ten years. The last 10 minutes drags it down to a 9 instead of a 10, but this film is raw, it is primal and it is made with ingenuity and care and it is a true homage to the horror films that I grew up with. This is truly a must see for any horror fan.
Oh my god. Without a doubt I have not been affected by a movie this
much since watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was
well under age and the movie was certainly more than dodgy. I couldn't
sleep after watching that and was very uneasy, multiplied a gazillion
times by the imagination of a kid. This certainly had a similar affect
on me, it scared me and horrified me, it even surprised me more than
any other movie has of late.
If you have any preconception about foreign cinema being weaker to Hollywood then you have hardly spent enough time watching foreign cinema and too much time engrossed in poor romantic flicks with Clooney et al. You really need to get out and grab some of that Japanese, Spanish and French cinema action. It's easily had and there's a lot to it, far better movies...anyway, I find myself digressing again.
From the outset this movie pitches itself as a hard horror, it isn't going to pull any punches and it's going to show you like it is, harrowing and horrific. That said, the story then turns to a slower pace and you find that it's mixing the suspenseful thriller in with the moments of full on horror, and it's done so well. Too well in fact, and watching the psychotic at work is sometimes shocking.
It rides a fine line between schlock horror and suspense horror, it manages to combine the two without falling into a complete gore flick. It is gory mind you, very gory. I was eating a couple of biscuits during the movie and I stopped until it was finished, even then I wasn't sure.
That's where this movies strength lies, it really pushes the boundaries of between those two types of movies but keeps its feet firmly in the suspense, and tension area. The film is exceedingly tense, and it's raised slowly to begin with, but creeps up at every set piece, and it's not long before the shocking and surprising final set piece is upon you. That in itself is terrifying, and as it unfolded on me I was stunned.
Part of me thinks that this movie could have done much better without all the horror, but I'm not sure that the film would have carried on the tension and suspense alone, it's the very presence of the horror that adds to and heightens the pressure.
A very stylish, tense film, truly a suspense-thriller-horror to be proud of from the French. Please Hollywood, don't remake it.
...and so will faces, slashed throats, dismembered hands, decapitated
heads, backs, arms, feet, stomachs, chests... In fact, just about
everything that can bleed does bleed in this movie, and does so
High Tension, aka Switchblade Romance (much better title) is the best horror movie I've seen come out in theaters in years. After so many times hearing "this is the movie horror fans have been waiting for" and then being horribly disappointed by Cabin Fever, The Ring, Malevolence, Darkness, The Grudge, and every single other one, I am throwing my full weight behind this one. Switchblade Romance is the movie real horror movie fans have been waiting for. It's a bloody, merciless, no-humor and no-holds-barred homage to the classic slasher pics of the 70s, and yet it surpasses almost every movie it draws its inspiration from. We get an unstoppable but definitely human killer, far more interesting than, say, Jason or what Michael Myers has now become because of his obviously being human and because he makes some undeniably smart decisions and operates in a continuously logical, inescapable way. The arsenal on display is impressive, as it should be in any decent slasher movie. We get the basic straight razor, the butcher knife, shotgun, axe, and, in an incredible and deliciously violent nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the power buzzsaw.
Every aspect of this film is in place. The plot is simple and straightforward, the acting, even dubbed, is interesting (and despite complaints of why only parts of it were dubbed, if you watch closely and pay attention to who speaks French and who is dubbed, it actually makes perfect sense and fits with the movie), the cinematography is strangely artistic, almost gialli-like, the bloodletting stylish and gruesome, the sound design incredible, the tension almost unwavering. The initial horror set piece, the arrival of the killer and the slaughter in the house, is bound to become a well-remembered and oft referenced classic scene of horror. The sheer brutality and stark reality of it ranks it up there, in my mind, with the gut wrenching finale of "Odishon." A quick word on the performances. There's minimal dialogue, but what there is is at least two steps up from most horror films. Its meant to build character, whereas most slasher flick dialogue is there just to drive the plot. Here, we care about the characters, even those who don't get much of a chance to talk, because the situation is so much more real than your average flick and so is the acting. Cecile de France's physical performance is stunning, the fear on her face, the tension in every limb, the breath rate, the pain, everything, and the sheer madness that Maiwenn's character endures is perfectly conveyed by the utter despair she is able to convey even with a gag in her mouth most of the time.
An, of course, a quick word on the ending. Quit complaining! The ending of this movie is great, not only does it take an extremely well made but somewhat shallow gore pic to a whole new level with some interesting things to say about... well, I won't say on account of not spoiling it, but yes, it actually does make sense if you've watched the movie carefully and have enough intellect to think about it on your own rather than just taking at face value what you've seen. I halfway wonder if the twist wasn't in part a snobby French joke Aja decided to play to see if we lulled, summer blockbuster-fed Americans could figure it out and realize that everything works without being spoon-fed exactly how it works.
8 / 10 - which makes it twice as good as the next best horror movie to come out in theatres in a decade. The only thing that keeps it from attaining a perfect 10 is that, although the tension is cranked up high for most of it and the scares are a thing that will haunt you more after walking out of the movie than when you're watching, the suspense does kind of flag unexpectedly in a few key places. Still, given the other 80% of the movie is extremely suspenseful and effectively brutal, this is a small flaw. If you like horror movies, GO SEE IT.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(USA: High Tension /UK: Switchblade Romance)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Sound formats: Dolby Digital Surround EX / DTS
After witnessing the massacre of an entire family at their isolated country home, a young student (Cécile de France) goes in pursuit of a depraved psychopath (Philippe Nahon) who has taken her friend (Maïwenn Le Besco) hostage.
The real deal. A return to the bleak intensity of 1970's/80's horror by a director (Alexandre Aja) clearly in love with the genre. As such, it's no surprise to find Italian makeup maestro Giannetto de Rossi (ZOMBI 2, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, etc.) credited in the opening titles, and his work - allied to Aja's ultra-realistic approach to the material - is among the best of de Rossi's career. One of the most frightening movies to emerge from Europe - or anywhere else, for that matter - in recent memory, HAUTE TENSION pits a terrified heroine (de France, giving an unrestrained, highly physical performance) against an unstoppable force of nature (Nahon) who proceeds to steal her innocence clean away. Set amongst the splendors of rural France, Aja's film uses the wide open spaces to generate foreboding from the outset (beautiful cinematography by Maxime Alexandre), and his use of music and ambient sound is masterful. Once the violence erupts in earnest - about twenty minutes into the picture - Aja cuts dialogue down to an absolute minimum and strikes a level of intensity that few horror films have achieved in recent years, and the pace remains frantic throughout. De Rossi's gore effects are explicit and plentiful, but the director balances these outrageous visuals with a series of poignant brushstrokes (eg. a dying victim pleading not for help, but for an explanation of the tragedy which has befallen her), adding small touches of human warmth to an otherwise fierce brew.
Some people have complained about a climactic 'turnaround' which appears to come out of left-field, but their protests are groundless. In fact, this jaw-dropping sleight-of-hand is entirely in keeping with the director's off-kilter intentions, and most viewers will relish an opportunity to dissect the narrative on second viewing, where various 'contrivances' and 'lapses in logic' are revealed as nothing of the kind. Aja and co-scriptwriter Grégory Levasseur aren't interested in mollycoddling the audience or leavening the material with wisecracks and 'post-modern' references to genre movies past and present; they simply want to scare the hell out of you, and in that, they have succeeded magnificently. HAUTE TENSION is an instant classic, deserving of every accolade. An uncredited Luc Besson (THE BIG BLUE, LEON, etc.) acted as co-producer on the film.
There should not be any surprise why Wes Craven chose Alexandre Aja to direct the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes". Aja's "High Tension" delivers what could be the most terrifying scenario in horror history since "The Last House on The Left". Two young women travel to a dreary looking farmhouse to study for important school exams. That same night, as soon as the doorbell rings, the madness strikes, and it strikes hard. The killer in this film holds nothing back, and it will feel as if you had been struck in the stomach by a 2x4. The flick will not let you go until the last fearful scene is over. Highly recommended for serious horror filmmakers.
In order to fully appreciate "High Tension", it's best to see it in its original language and uncut. There has been a lot of hype about this film amongst gore hounds and horror movie buffs. I'd have to say it lived up to its reputation. Although the story is very simplistic and nothing original, "High Tension" still manages to grab the viewer. It has flawless lighting and camera work, great acting and a truly disturbing psychological intensity. The story concerns the tomboyish yet sexy Marie, played by Cecile De France. Marie and her friend Alex plan a vacation away from the big city. Marie is to stay with Alex and her family at their farm house. Little do they know of the psychotic serial killer who is on the prowl, driving his old van through the country side. The killer, played by Philippe Nahon of "I Stand Alone", is a deeply frightening man. He carries a strait razor and at one point even has the nerve to give himself fellatio with a girls decapitated head. Yuck! The killer invades Alex's home and wrecks havoc on her family. The violence is extremely brutal and unrelenting. The bloody realism may cause some viewers to turn their head. The film becomes more insane from this point on turning into a endless pursuit of cat and mouse. Some critics have complained that the film contains certain plot holes. I felt that by director Alex Aja leaving certain things unexplained, it added to the intensity. Very suspenseful and horrifying, no wonder why they called it "High Tension". It sure gave me tension. The reason I recommend seeing the film in its original french version, is because the acting is so believable. Dubbing only takes away from the amazing performances. Also not to mention the MPAA taking their own strait razor to the film, slashing it down to an R rating. I highly enjoyed "High Tension". It marks a return to the style of old school horror directors such as Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter.
The title of this marvellous French horror thriller translates directly
into English as 'High Tension', and as anyone who's seen it will tell
you; it's an apt title. Simply put, Switchblade Romance (to give it
English release, and better, title) is a pure adrenaline rush
throughout. The film forsakes substance in favour of masses of tension
and the result is a film that is guaranteed to get your heart racing.
The fact that the film features numerous sequences of extreme gore
doesn't exactly hinder it either. There has been a surge of good,
inventive horror coming from overseas and independent studios recently;
the likes of May, Dog Soldiers and Sleepless being among the best of
them, and Switchblade Romance sits nicely alongside the cream of the
recent crop. This film follows two friends, Alex and Marie who go to
stay with Alex's parents in their country home. However, things go awry
when a man breaks into the home and brutally murders the family. We
then follow Alex and Marie through a roller coaster ride of tension and
suspense as they try their best not get sliced and diced!
The film is very stylishly shot, and this has lead many to label it a 'Giallo'. This is most certainly not true, and there isn't much other than the style of the movie to suggest this. Switchblade Romance is more of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style horror driven slasher than a Giallo; the film clearly knows this also, with a direct homage to the seventies classic towards it's climax. The amount of gore on display is impressive, and several scenes are certainly not for the feint-hearted. There's quite an array of weaponry in the film also, from the plain and simple switchblade, to much more exciting weapons like barbed wire, various guns, an axe and, my personal favourite, the chainsaw! In fact, I am pleased to report that Switchblade Romance features what is maybe the most brutal chainsaw scene ever! Aside from the weapons and gore, this film is also of note for it's music. The original score sets just the right tone for the goings on - it's atmospheric, but steady and almost like a lullaby, which fits with the film's style nicely. Switchblade Romance also features one of the best uses of original music of recent years, with a great scene that incorporates Muse's "New Born".
Switchblade Romance is pure style, and a complete adrenaline rush. Tension isn't in the film, it IS the film. In spite of it's lack of substance, this movie will have you on the edge of your seat and begging for more. Add that to some lovely music, classy acting and enough gore to fill an abattoir - and what you've got is the makings of a cult classic!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie sucked. Not all is as it seems, as the plot blurb says. What
it seems to be is a really good slasher flick. REALLY GOOD! Until the
police get involved. I won't spoil it for you if you are desperate to
see it-- no wait... yes i will *******spoiler alert********
how is it possible that she is the killer? unanswered questions to ponder: 1. how does her being the killer explain the piece at the beginning where the killer is masturbating with the head of the previous kill?
2. where the hell does the truck come from? they drove the car to the farm house
3. why have the man chasing the brunette, after it is revealed to be the blonde girl?
4. how did the blonde get all bloodied up if she wasn't actually fighting anyone in the greenhouse?
5. at the beginning, we see the blonde stop the car in the forest, and at the end we see the brunette. having the point of view switch when the cops see the video was not only jolting but bad movie making, because there was no reason beyond confusing the audience with facts that can't possibly fit the film thus far.
had we not seen the killer at the beginning, i would have bought the whole thing. had we not seen him masturbating with a head in the cornfield, this movie would have kicked butt. as it stands someone screwed up, huge.
don't waste your money or your time. pvp
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