The first thing that must be pointed out about this film is that the name is appropriate. Director Alexandre Aja does a masterful job of creating an atmosphere so tense that audiences sit with their hands clenched to their chairs through most of the movie. However, the writing leaves a bit to be desired.
Alex and Marie are a pair of college chums who return to Alex’s family’s home for an extended visit. As Marie is introduced to Alex’s father, mother, little brother, and dog, it seems like the perfect setting of quiet life. The serenity is broken on their first night home, however, as a deranged killer chooses their house inexplicably and butchers everyone within, save Alex, whom he’s using as a sex toy, and Marie, who successfully hides from the lunatic. Marie attempts to help her friend escape, only to be unwittingly captured.
There is quite a bit good about this movie. First, the direction of Aja moves the film along at a break-neck pace that leaves the audience breathless. Visually stunning, the look and feel of the film fit in with the tone nicely. In addition, High Tension is deliciously gory with enough blood spattered about and painful moments to have audiences squirming in their seats. Cécile De France and Maïwenn Le Besco perform admirably, giving performances of real fear for audiences to lap up.
Once the movie is over, the credits have rolled, and the nervous ticks have worn off, the film leaves far too much unanswered. Without spoiling the ending, looking back through the film, one discovers plot holes that could easily accommodate a fleet of moving vans as well as a few moments that just plain don’t make sense.
All told, High Tension is aptly titled in that it makes the viewer cling to his or her seat in anticipation of what will happen next. However, don’t go in expecting a thinking person’s horror film. For the first three quarters it sucks the viewer along for a hair-raising ride, but that last quarter left me flat and disappointed.
High Tension (2005)
(Lions Gate Films)
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Cécile De France and Maïwenn Le Besco
2 out of 5