High Tension (2003) – Alexandre Aja

The 101 Horror Movies, as it draws closer to the end of the list (there’s only 4 left!), brings us this updated take on the traditional slasher movie with a twist.

It’s a graphic and bloody romp, most of it making me just go Ahhh! And shaking my head saying “That’s awesome.” That lasted until near the end of the film when Alex (Maiwenn) has a huge jagged piece of glass sticking out of her ankle. That one actually gave me a really bad moment, I just muttered at the screen… “That’s gotta hurt.”

The story follows Alex and her school mate Marie (Cecile De France) as they head to Alex’s family’s home in the country to prepare and study for their exams. No sooner have they arrived in this remote location, and gotten settled, when there’s a knock at the door, and their nightmare begins.

Known simply as The Killer (Philippe Nahon), the attacker bursts into the house, and makes quick work of the entire family, even the family dog! Dressed in coveralls, and a blue cap, the camera tends not to show his eyes, or anything above his nose until the final act when his cap has been knocked off. It gives him a faceless nature, much like Mike Myers hiding behind his mask in the original Halloween, when he was simply referred to as The Shape.

High-Tension-movie-duoMarie hides out, making her room seem unoccupied, as he stalks his victims, his attention seems to be focused on Alex. Chaining her up, he tosses her into the back of a rather decrepit and pathetic looking truck.

The body count is small, but the blood work is very high, and it’s good fun to watch, the first kill actually got a a small round of applause from me.

The film moves along at a brisk pace, as Marie slips into the back of the pickup truck with Alex as she tries to figure out a way to get them both out of their and way from The Killer. They stalk one another in a gas station, through the woods, and a rundown green house.

It’s a well-crafted, and gruesome tale, and I even went in knowing the story’s twist, so I could watch for little tell-tale signs in the performances and visual cues. They’re there if you pay attention, it makes you wonder how much is in their heads, and how much is really happening.

High TensionIt’s predominantly Marie’s film, she’s in practically every frame of it, and the sequence where she’s tidying her room to make it look unoccupied is one of my favorites in the film. She dries the sink, makes sure there’s no water dripping, that the bed is made and unslept in, that there is no sign that it’s been inhabited at all.

My other favorite sequence was right at the end, when Alex gets away, and has waved down a passing car, and you’re hoping the car starts in time as The Killer strides out of the forest and goes to town on the car, coating the occupants and its interior with what must have been buckets of blood!

Slasher films, as a rule, aren’t my favorite sub-genre of horror films, but over the course of this list, I’ve actually learned to appreciate them, and can now, happily pick a good one from a bad one, and this is one of the good ones.  It’s got all the staples of the slasher film, nudity, sexual activity, gruesome kills, a seemingly unstoppable killer, and as a bonus, a nice little twist. Awesome.

What did you think of it?



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