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High Tension (Unrated Widescreen Edition) (2005)

Art House & International movie directed by Alexandre Aja

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A nice bloodbath dipped in truly grueling suspense.

  • Jan 19, 2012
*** out of ****

Alexandre Aja's "High Tension" ("Haute Tension" in its native country of France) is the rare slasher flick that truly draws the line between the exploitation of violence and truly bloodcurdling suspense. Indeed, there is a high body count - and each and every one of those bodies is soaked in blood, mutilated, and perhaps even cut up a bit - but there is also the desire to make the audience wait for big events to unfold. That may seem like a bit of an uneven balance, but with all due respect, Aja is a talented filmmaker; and he has made one of the best slasher movies I've seen in a long, long time. His skill is not in the desperation to reference all the films before this one that influenced its creation; no, Aja has bigger things on his mind. He takes an interesting approach to the material and the genre; whether you actually appreciate his intent depends on how big a bloodbath you are willing to endure, because this one doesn't begin to sugar-coat violence and the ugliness of both man and woman-kind.

Two young French women - Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) - make a trip to the latter's parent's farmhouse; where they intend to leave their many preceding days of partying behind them in an attempt to master the art of studying. They are both students - but of what? I can't quite recall if it was ever specified what these two lovely ladies are studying, but then again, Aja understands that this is not the focus; and he pretty much gets right to the point, if you catch my drift.

They arrive at the house by night. Marie meets and greets the family members of Alex, and then calls it a day. But she is interrupted from any potential rest when a knock on the door brings a switchblade-wielding psychopath into the household; and this is one man who will stop at nothing - and for nothing - to destroy everything and everyone in his path.

The man travels by old truck; and if you saw this bad boy on the road, it would be a sight to remember. I guess he realizes that he's an unstoppable, heartless killing machine; thus, no worries about being caught. He makes his way through Alex's parents, her pet dog, and then her kid brother. Finally, he takes Alex and loads her into his vehicle. But we know one thing that he does not: Marie was not spotted. This means that she has a chance at rescuing her friend from the clutches of evil; but will she reveal a darker side through her struggle? Possibly. You'll just have to see for yourself.

Or not. "High Tension" is not a film for the squeamish; and that alone eliminates a huge chunk of its audience. But then again, it's aimed at long-time horror fans; and appeal to them it shall. Already beloved by some, this is one hell of a ride. Aja crafts suspense almost flawlessly, and while the payoff (and now-infamous twist ending) are both equally as disappointing, I'd seen the film before and thus I knew they were always around the corner. So with that in mind, I sat back and admired.

While the leading ladies (and one man, Philippe Nahon, who plays the killer) give intense, believable, provoking performances; I think most of the credit should respectfully go to the magicians behind the scenes. Alexandre Aja, for once, makes for an enthusiastic, ambitious, and highly talented filmmaker; he films every kill like a true artist should. His eye for bloody carnage combined with Maxime Alexandre's interesting, suitably intriguing cinematography gives the film its primal edge. Speaking of "carnage", who is the man behind all of this bloodshed? Well, my friends, it is none other than the great, the beautiful, the LEGENDARY; Giannetto De Rossie! And if that name means nothing to you (De Rossie did the make-up effects for most of the Lucio Fulci films that anyone actually gives a damn about), then what are you doing watching horror films in the first place?

Cheap, cop-out ending and sickening violence aside; "High Tension" is well-made and intense from start to finish. Unlike so many movies that had the potential to be good, this one lived up to the promises of its title. There is blood, there is violence, there is off-screen gunshots planted in the bodies of little boys running around in cornfields, yes; but there's also a good amount of nail-biting tension that makes up for all of that. And if you can do that successfully without making me absolutely sick, I'd say you're pretty damn gifted; and Aja most definitely is, in spite of his recent career choices (none of which are particularly good, save for "Piranha"). Long story short, if you can forgive what's shown on-screen and appreciate the thought and precision that went into this crafty little slasher picture, then you will come out pleased whether the ending proves to be a complete killjoy or not.

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January 22, 2012
Agreed. I really liked this film--the ending just ruined it for me. It is a fine example how important a film's climax is to the enjoyment of a film.
More High Tension (2005) reviews
Quick Tip by . January 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
If you like your slasher movies not to make sense then this is THE movie for you. But make sure to watch it with the subtitles ON because if you don't speak French then you're going to try to make sense out of it. Better just read the nonsense and bathe in senseless sang du couchon or it could be real people blood, by the time you hit your blood limit you won't care.
review by . May 16, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Horror Retention
Just when I thought the Horror industry was in dire need of some great assistance, Aja delivered the goods & saved the day. In fact, he delivered them so well the film garnered an NC-17 rating which is quite impressive. thankfully, we are able to get this unedited version on DVD. High Tension has all the great elements which make a perfect suspense thriller or even great pyshcological Horror masterpiece. There's gore, edgy terror-filled scenes, & even repressed sexuality which works …
review by . November 09, 2008
High Tension (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
High Tension is for horror aficionados only, great cinema it is not. At a horror event, I received some very cool promo material for this movie and couldn't wait for it to come out on DVD. After a sweet titillation near the beginning (head jokes will roll), the movie slows down. Keep watching...it gets better.     Marie (Cecile de France) is invited to visit the French countryside by classmate and pal Alexia (Maiwenn le Besco) and stay with her family at their old French manor …
review by . August 27, 2006
Alexandre Aja takes us to a roller-coaster of horror in a movie that lives up to its name. "Haute Tension" keeps the tension to the max as we see a return to the visceral gory violence without being vulgar or void exploitation. In fact, the film manages to hold a perfect equilibrium between the elegance and beauty of French film-making and brutal grim horror of movies like Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".    Cécile De France plays Marie, who is visiting her college friend …
review by . February 07, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
After seeing High Tension you start to think why people were making such a big deal about Hostel because this movie goes crazy with the gore. The film was going in a good direction until the amazing but horrible end. The ending is lazy and you'll see what I mean when you see it. Basically your being leaded to believe one thing and that belief is ripped right from under you when they switch everything up. They give the story away very obviously in the beginning and I think they thought nobody was …
review by . February 06, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
After seeing High Tension you start to think why people were making such a big deal about Hostel because this movie goes crazy with the gore. The film was going in a good direction until the amazing but horrible end. The ending is lazy and you'll see what I mean when you see it. Basically your being leaded to believe one thing and that belief is ripped right from under you when they switch everything up. They give the story away very obviously in the beginning and I think they thought nobody was …
review by . November 30, 2005
This is what psycho killer thrillers should be like! Actually INTENSITY, actual fear...actually making the viewer uncomfortable.    Marie and Alexa, two college roommates, are off to visit Alexa's parents in their new country home. Alexa is a bit boy-crazy, and Marie is obviously smitten with her friend. They arrive at the quaint home late at night, briefly meet the parents and little brother, and then go to bed. Suddenly, the peaceful, remote house is descended upon by a true …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Home to some of the world's best food and fashion, the French also have the wonderful habit of producing some of the world's best movies. WithHigh Tension, French director Alexandre Aja offers up a bloody buffet of terror; a violent concoction of style over substance, with a bloody French twist. Two college girlfriends, Maria and Alex, take a weekend to study at the secluded country home of Alex's parents. Shortly after their arrival, a mysterious killer appears, and things take a shockingly terrible turn for the worse. As the horror and body count rises, Maria and Alex find themselves fighting for their lives, and it's revealed that things are not exactly as they seem. Essentially a one-act cat-and-mouse affair,High Tensionis an explosive bloody thrill ride that rarely lets up. Oozing style in every color-saturated frame and boasting some intense performances, Aja mainly succeeds in sustaining an intense momentum throughout the film. The plot occasionally suffers from a thin, flimsy storyline, and the abundant graphic scenes of violence will either thrill and delight, or simply disgust. Nonetheless, this adrenalin-fueled addition to the genre gives the American slasher flick a real run for its money.High Tensionis high-art horror, and comes highly recommended.--Matt Wold
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Director: Alexandre Aja
Genre: Foreign
DVD Release Date: October 11, 2005
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment
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