Customer Review

23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psycho Killer, Qu'est-ce qu c'est?, November 30, 2005
This review is from: High Tension (Unrated Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Alejandre Aja serves up a sulphurously nasty little gut-churner of a horror flick that finally answers the age-old burning question: is there anything hotter than a buff chick wielding a buzz-saw?

A: Absolutement, non!

Now: is it possible to conjure up a pure, nightmarish gem of a horror movie, perhaps even a *perfect* horror movie, within the space of about an hour?

It is: Aja has done it with "Haute Tension", which---for its first 60 minutes, perhaps a little more---positively boils over with knuckle-splitting suspense and runs crimson with boatloads of brains, blood, and clotted gore.

While "Haute Tension" works, it works in spades. Here we have an athletic, spare, no-bullsh*t little horror flick that drives up to your house in the dead of night (while you're just getting into that "I gotta be dreaming" state of deep-groggy-helplessness), smashes your door down, stomps up your stairs, and butchers you like a squealing hog before you've even gotten your jammy-clad butt clear of the bedclothes.

"Haute Tension" is a compact, stylish, jarring, gorgeously shot, supply terrifying little tale of a happy little family and their visitor Marie (the astonishingly nubile Cecille de France, who can wield her buzz-saw on my country estate any time), enjoying a quiet, slightly rustic life in the French countryside, and what becomes of them one night when a Monster comes calling.

Is it possible to destroy that perfect film within 10 seconds?

Mais oui!---Aja does that as well, in the final reel, with a cheap, feeble "twist" plot device that basically takes everything in the flick that has gone before and tosses it into the sh*tter, effectively taking a highly disrespectful, unceremonious dump on what was---up to that point---one of the few flicks I've ever seen that came close to the raw, brutal, uncompromising horror of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

Ah well: we do what we can with what we're given. "Haute Tension" is marvellously simple: two French chicks---Marie (the buff De France) and Alexia (Maiwenn le Besco, who for some reason sets my teeth on edge, and not in a good way) decide to spend a little quality time studying on Alexia's family farm deep in the French countryside. Relaxing, n'est-ce pas?

Their little collegial R&R is broken up in the dead of night by The Killer (the amazing Philippe Nahon), who shows up, kicks down the front door, and manages to single-handedly undo 200 years of nasty jokes about wimpy Frenchmen by unloading all sorts of hardcore a**-whuppery on the unsuspecting family within. In his first two minutes onscreen, he manages to make Michael Myers, Jason, and Freddy Krueger look like a bunch of pansies.

He also brings some much needed punishment-fits-the-crime judgement to the horror genre: be slow to answer your door at 2 in the morning? Have your block knocked off by a chest-of-drawers! Have the bad form to try and call the police? Try dialing 9-1-1 with a stump, mademoiselle!

As I mentioned, when "Haute Tension" works---and it continues to do its brutal business well even after the stupid twist---it works in spades: this is a pungent, nasty, truly scary flick. De France is astonishing to look at, but she's also an amazingly capable actress, and serves as a fitting opponent for the flick's hungry Monster in his blood-spattered, trophy-studded delivery van.

And let's save the best for last: Philippe Nahon as The Killer is just astonishing in what could easily have been a throwaway role. Nahon played The Butcher in the lose-your-dinner-horrific "I Stand Alone", and he's effectively bottled and distilled that coiled rage and translated it into "Haute Tension".

Nahon's Killer is a show-stopper: he's a kind of black hole of pure physical presence and smoldering, sadistic evil---check out that sick little smile that forms up on his fat pug while he's checking out his 'trophies' in the rear-view mirror. Gorgeous. Nahon's Killer is a nasty piece of work.

The same can be said of "Haute Tension", despite its glaring flaw: Aja has created a very simple---deliciously simple---little film that touches---Hell, presses down hard---on that deep-seated, primal fear of the Murderous Outsider barging in through our door in the wee hours of the morning and killing, raping, burning and eating everything we hold dear.

Bon appetit!

JSG
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 1, 2010 1:01:38 PM PDT
Ryan says:
I dont think the movie was ruined with the ending.. especially not to the level you describe it. The only thing I didnt like about the ending was some of the questions it brought up / left open. For instance, the desecrating of the severed head towards the beginning of the movie.. how does that hash with the ending? I know anytime you say "theres a twist ending" you get one step closer to figuring it out and not being surprised, but Im being intentionally vague to not give anything away. Well, anyway just my two bits on the movie. I do absolutely LOVE this movie. I watched it probably 6 times the first week I had it. I watched it and loved it, so I had my brother and a friend come over and watch it the next day. Had some other people over the next day and so on and so on. (sidenote: my sister nearly faints if you so much as put a butter knife to your arm, so watching her TRY to watch the movie was as good as actually watching the movie by that point lol)

Posted on Apr 7, 2013 8:28:58 AM PDT
Jane Austen says:
Maybe give a spoiler alert in the beginning of your review?
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