13 October 2012

HIGH TENSION/2003

If anybody reads this blog and my other my site on a semi-regular basis you will know that I am in no way shy about dishing out spoilers. I am usually prone to, however, not give away the big scenes. The ones that “take your breath away” so to speak. Well, I am warning you now, if you have not seen this film I am going to trash the ending totally. So you are warned. The reason I will explain when the time draws nigh. I was preparing to review the film P2 by director Alexnadre Aja and while researching it I ran across this earlier effort by him, downloaded it and watched it on my iPad2 the other night. I will get to P2 but I decided to write about this one while it was still fresh in my mind. Of course P2 will only become more and more distant and blurry, but what I forget I will get back from reading the scene by scene synopsis on Wikipedia. That always refreshes one’s memory. I liked this film really. Not a great film by any stretch, but it was working fine for me until the utterly absurd and aforementioned ending. Again, we will deal with that shortly, but for now let me say what sort of worked for me about it, and what other things did not.

First off the ultra-violent effects, all  practical FX –meaning basically, for horror films, old school make-up, no CGI as far as I can tell- are superbly handled, by Giannetto De Rossi who did a lot of the gory work for Lucio Fulci.Heads are sheered off by book shelves, throats are slit by razors, chest are hacked with axes, faces are beaten with barbed wire covered fence poles and people are cut to pieces with a huge power saw. Oh, and severed female heads are used to as fellatio tools then discarded out of truck windows like an empty bag of McDonald’s lunch. Yea, it’s a little over the top and not really necessary to anything in the story later, but it was done well and had a pretty unsettling feel about it. That happened in the film’s first ten or so minutes. But the scene, like I said, was not necessary really except as an attempt on Aja’s part to be shocking and extreme, as much of the newer French horror seems to be trying to do. There is an even a term for this, the New French Extremity Movement. And I okay with gore and violence, but there was something a little too much with that scene. The film, as just mentioned, is French. From what I understand there is, of course, a full French version with subs out there, and a fully dubbed and edited American version. I got an unedited version but the dialog is about 50/50 French and poorly dubbed English. And not only that, I did not have subtitles for the French parts, but I managed well enough and was able to follow the film’s “deep” storyline.

And while the storyline is nothing original by any stretch of the imagination it is handled, for the most part, well enough. School gal pals Marie (Cécile De France ) and Alexia (Maïwenn) go to Alexia’s parents place in the country for the weekend of relaxed study, to get away from the pressures of university life and prepare for some upcoming exams. Well we know what city kids traipsing off to the country for some relaxation means in horror films right? That’s right, some psycho-sexually twisted serial killer shows up later and ruin everything. The killer in this film –played by Philippe Nahon- is a pretty creepy and slimy, no doubt about that. He makes quick and gruesome work of Alexia’s family –even her  little brother the ‘cowboy’- and takes a bound and gagged Alexia off in his rusty, evil serial truck –that looks a lot like the serial killer truck in Jeepers Creepers- for some private fun and games. He does know that Marie was in the house and is now hiding in the truck, waiting for the chance to free her understandably panicking friend. There are all the close calls and tense moments you expect there to be and quite honestly they are handled fairly well. Aja (Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes) can handle tension and shock better than many these days I would have to say. During the scenes where Alexia and Maria are not talking the language shifts to French and sounds much better. I am not in any sense anti-dubbing as far as films go, but the English scenes sound horrible, like something from one of those poorly dubbed Giallo films form the 70’s or something. But those old dubbed films sometimes can eb fun, but here I think the original language stands up much better. The film moves long just fine and one is waiting for the showdown between Marie and “Le Tueuer” the killer. We witness her character transforming from terrified and fragile to pissed off and ready to crack the bad guy’s head wide open. And eventually she does. The final conflict scenes are not that bad, though I felt let down when the serial killer pulled out a portable power saw and revved it up. It was obviously a poor substitute for a chainsaw and I just am so burned out with chainsaws and their poor substitutes. But it does lead to some run of the mill suspense and not so run of the mill graphic gore.


So what happened? Where did this pretty decent sicko flick go wrong? Well, after all of this it is revealed that the killer is actually none other than Marie herself and that Le Tueuer is like part of her fractured personality or some other shitty explanation. What! This was a total crap out ending and utterly unbelievable. There is no way the scenes that came before the moment this is revealed can be explained by the killer being Marie herself, who is simply jealous about Alexia or something I guess. Never too clear about the whys here. Some people who have seen the film may take another position I guess, they may say, “oh come on Bill, you have to admit you did not see that coming?” Well, of course I did not because it is so illogical and ridiculous a thing that I would never have though anymore of that happening than I would Woody Allen being the killer and wearing a latex mask. This sort of ending is ludicrous only. I have seen this type of thing before of course, but not in a film that was running so smoothly before hand. Well, sort of smoothly anyway. But to cap off the picture like this is just bad film-making. And that is why I am spoiling the “grand” moment, because it is anything but grand. It is a cheap shot and more like the ending to an EC comic book story. Does the ending take away all the stuff that came before it? No not really. But it is a crappy ending and I didn’t buy it. Plain goofy. Okay, let me go finish P2 which, which is a slightly better movie with a formula ending, but sometimes there is a reason to follow to the formula.






9 comments:

  1. There is a good reason for that tacked on ending which you may not have realised. Basically, "Haute Tension" was a huge ripoff of a Dean Koontz novel - almost scene by scene - which would have been okay except that it was already a legitimate TV movie too (although not many people outside of the US have seen it).

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  2. I did not know that really. I do remember seeing Dean Koontz's name as I was skimming some reviews but no9t not stop to figure anything out. I would have really liked a nice formula ending where the weirdo got what was coming to him. This was too much for me and really blew the whole movie.

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  3. I absolutely love this film, but for some reason it's known as "Switchblade Romance" over here in the UK.
    Dunno why...

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  4. I saw that title listed as an AKA. Does not seem to make sense either, a bit misleading. NO switchblades and no romance.

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  5. Actually Switchblade Romance is the director's preferred English title.

    What's the title of that Dean Koontz telly movie?

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  6. I think the term Switchblade Romance is cool actually, but seemed better fro some sort of juvenile delinquent film. I actually do not know anything about Dean Koontz but if I come across that info I will get back, or if one of the five other people who read this blog know maybe can share with us.

    Thanks Jack

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  7. I didn't know that Giannetto De Rossi did the effects for this. That explains why they look great.

    The Dean Koontz novel is Intensity and is not too bad a read. And yes it is pretty similar.

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  8. I didn't mind the ending of HIGH TENSION but it didn't ring my chimes either. Just seemed like an average ending for a psycho killer flick. I thought it a little better than King's SECRET WINDOW.

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  9. Excelente post amigo, muchas gracias por compartirlo. Te quiero invitar a mi nuevo Blog de Cine de Terror que seguramente te gustará, espero tus comentarios en:
    http://terror-en-el-cine.blogspot.com/

    Un gran saludo, Oz.

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