What more can be said about this film? For the true horror fan, this is far from a new release. Due in part to tremendous word of mouth, most of us had already tracked down our copy of Haute Tension on foreign import DVD way before this film made its way Stateside.
For those unfamiliar with the story, High Tension follows the exploits of two college girls on their way to visit one of their families. What starts out as a pleasant road trip quickly turns into a violent orgy, and for that I say AMEN! The groundwork of High Tension is very familiar. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times. This time, however, it is done more than right! This is one film that lives up to its name. The tension is almost suffocating! It serves as a competent throwback to the golden age of the slasher film.
Until . . .
The twist. Can someone please tell me why there always has to be a twist ending nowadays? Sometimes twists can be cool, but in High Tension‘s case it is completely implausible, incoherent, and outright senseless. Everything was moving along at a breakneck pace for near eighty minutes until all the life is just seemingly sucked out of the experience. “Sucked” being the operative word. Sometimes I wish it just would have ended at the eighty-minute mark. This is just my opinion though. There are those that loved the twist. But, then again, there were also those that thought New Coke was a good idea too. Let’s move on!
It’s impossible to talk about this film without giving a nod to the F/X genius of the great Giannetto De Rossi. This man can do splatter with the best of them. He’s a living legend in the world of gore and F/X, and he has earned that title time and time again. During High Tension you’re guaranteed to cringe at the liberal use of the red stuff! As always, Giannetto, my hat is off to you!
Enough about the film. It has been dissected numerous times on this website and in our forums. The bottom line is, you’re either going to love the twist, or you’re going to hate it. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Let’s talk about the disc itself!
Lions Gate has a winner here. Everything you could want from a DVD is included and brimming! One feature of particular interest is Haute Horror: The Making of High Tension, which includes some typical behind-the-scenes stuff, but more fascinating are the interviews with director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur. It’s clear that these guys are both passionate and well versed in the genre. Hearing them speak about making a horror film warmed my little black heart. There’s no running away from what they did. There’s no backing down. They aren’t calling it a thriller; they’re actually calling it a horror film! Too many filmmakers nowadays refuse to admit that what they’re making or have made is indeed a horror film. They call them psychological thrillers with supernatural overtones, whatever the hell that means. Kudos to them for embracing the genre!
Also on the disc is a seven-minute featurette with splatter legend Giannetto De Rossi. In it we get some insight as to the difficulties of the F/X and hear some clever anecdotes from the man himself. I swear, someone needs to do a documentary just about this man’s career. I could have listened for hours on end. Speaking of listening, the commentaries on this DVD warrant its purchase by themselves! There’s a feature length one with Aja and Levasseur and also a select scene one with Aja and star Cécile De France.
The bottom line is that whether you’re a fan of the film or just the genre itself, you need this DVD in your collection. Like the twist or not, there’s enough gore in this unrated edition to keep you coming back, and for purists that HATED the dubbing in the theatrical version, the original French track has been ported over as well. Viva L’horreur Francais!
High Tension (2003)
Lions Gate Films
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Cécile De France, Maïwenn Le Besco, Philippe Nahon
Audio Commentary – Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur
DVD Introduction with Alexandre Aja and Cécile De France
Selected Scene Commentary with Alexandre Aja and Cécile De France
Haute Horror — Making of High Tension Featurette
Giannetto De Rossi: The Truth, The Madness, and the Magic Featurette
Building Tension Featurette
4 out of 5