Thursday, September 27, 2012

High Tension

I had heard absolutely nothing about this French slasher flick before seeing the American trailer. The trailer was damn cool, featuring plenty of frantic editing, creepy images and set to a cover of a song by The Carpenters’ “Superstar”. I was definitely seeing this movie. Well, it's been delayed I don't know how many times. It's a foreign film and I'm sure LGF isn't sure whether to release it with subtitles or dubbed, or if there's even a market for a French slasher film. It's also 2 years old at this point. Whatever, I got my hands on a Thai DVD of the film (it's dubbed) and checked it out.

I have to say this is one of the best slasher films I've seen in years. The funny thing is that it took two viewings to come to that conclusion. I’ll explain, but first…
Two college friends, Marie (Cecile De France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco), need a quiet place to study for their exams so they head out to Alex's parents' cottage in the country. We are introduced to Alex's parents and little brother, and then BAM! A sadistic and violent killer shows up at their door and begins offing each of them in gruesome ways. After a lengthy stalk scene where Marie eludes the killer in creative ways we find out that Alex has been bound and loaded into the killer's truck for some unknown purpose. Marie tracks down the killer and her friend in a suspenseful game of cat and mouse that lasts for a good 30 minutes and has you by the chones the whole time.

Then an M. Night Shyamalan style twist occurs that turns everything we've seen up to this point upside down. Upon my first viewing I thought it was so ridiculous that it was downright laughable. It seemed that the director wanted to just pull the rug out from under the audience for no rhyme or reason; he did it just because he could. I called bullshit and lo and behold it ruined the rest of the movie for me.
But the strange thing is this twist ending stayed with me long after I had seen it. When the film finally was released in the US I checked it out again to see if a second viewing would help the film make sense now that I knew what was going on and could look for the clues that I hoped were there. And what do you know they were there the whole time, I just was too clueless to see them. With a newfound insight into the workings of this film I was now able to enjoy it on a whole other level. Now I sing the director’s praises due to his extremely subtle and sometimes gruesomely artful way of setting up the twist beforehand.

The performances are solid, the direction is tight and very professional for this type of film, the music choices are inspired and the gore is abundant and graphic (the decapitation by bookcase was chilling).
High Tension is a scary, frightening and entertaining flick that plays with not only your mind, but your expectations. Check it out, you won't regret it.

4 of 5

*written 10/11/05

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