Review : High Tension (2003)

High Tension, released in 2003, was directed by Alexandre Aja who is famous for being the director of The Hills Have Eyes remake. The film is about two girls, Alex and Marie, who are about to spend the week-end at Alex’s parents’. The house is isolated and located in the countryside, near a cornfield. What starts as a peaceful week-end quickly turns into a nightmare when a sadistic killer targets them.

I cannot avoid starting this review by bluntly announcing that I hate almost everything about this film. I usually enjoy Alexandre Aja’s work but High Tension was an immense disappointment. I don’t recall hating a movie so strongly. I have seen my fair share of bad movies but High Tension is, while not a bad film, an atrocious experience. I will give my general opinion on High Tension and end this review with some spoilers to detail why I disliked the film so much.

High Tension is a failed attempt at emulating the thrills of better slashers. Though Aja’s love for the great classics of the genre is apparent, the film is a mediocre hommage to them. While movies like Friday The 13Th get away with kills that defy the laws of nature, High Tension doesn’t because they simply take you out of a movie you struggle to get interested in to begin with. The kills are unoriginal, but what is even worse is the perpetrator of those kills. The killer has no charisma and is simply a fat, sweaty and gross redneck. A slasher with a boring antagonist…brilliant.

The acting is also atrocious, especially from Cecile De France, and the poorly written dialogue doesn’t help. But my main issue with the film is that it is illogical and plain dishonest. A lot of scenes make no sense, are irrelevant and unnecessary and the twist at the end renders the entire film useless and meaningless. I advise you stop reading here if you have not seen High Tension as I’m about to reveal major plot points so I will conclude this paragraph by recommending not to waste your time with this film.

I will not underline the film’s homophobia nor its attempt at brutal imagery (the film is not particularly extreme but tries hard to shock the viewer). I simply want to give my thoughts on the most stupid and illogical twist I have ever witnessed. So, as you know if you’ve seen High Tension, Marie is the real killer and the redneck simply the physical representation of her psychotic tendencies. This is simply impossible and yet not what bothers me the most. The reason why I strongly dislike the film is because the twist only means one thing : the movie spent more than an hour lying to the viewer. No, the movie is not smart and did not intelligently trick the viewer. Nothing in the film can justify or explain that twist. Here’s a few examples of what remains unanswered (and simply impossible to rationally explain) : How can Marie drive a truck and be in the back with Alex at the same time ? How can she inflict such injuries on herself ? How can she drive a truck (with Alex in the back) and chase said truck in a sports car at the same time ?

Some scenes earlier in the film also feel irrelevant. For instance, one of the first scenes shows the redneck pleasuring himself with a severed head before throwing it out the truck’s window. This is another proof that the film is dishonest : how can we witness what a character is doing, all by himself, with nobody else near him, if he doesn’t exist outside of Marie’s mind ? Not only is there no indication throughout the film to suggest the redneck doesn’t exist but there are numerous scenes that point towards him being real thus, once again, making the twist illogical and impossible. And finally, one scene perfectly sums up the director’s intention : the scene where Marie is masturbating. This scene brings nothing to the story or the character and its only purpose is to show a girl pleasuring herself. The real intention was to show that Marie has feelings for her friend but it is bady handled. I found the scene where Marie watches Alex take a shower much more efficient in that regard.

The entire film tries to shock the viewer but never suceeds and the result is a film that is not only mediocre from a lot of different aspects but also makes no sense. High Tension is not an extreme film, it is simply dishonest.

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