Never heard of this doozy? Not surprised. There has been a recent surge, in the last decade or so, from foreign independent studios pumping out some great horror films. This French hardcore flick (as much as this pains me) is a bright, shining star among a sea of mediocrity in the genre. High Tension is a great example of a stylish twist put on a basic horror film concept.
Tension begins with the introduction of two innocent college girls driving across the French countryside, talking and carrying on in a light, flirtatious manner, ooh la la. Marie (Cecile De France) and her BFF, Alexia (Maïwenn Le Besco) arrive at Alexia's parents countryside cottage to a warm greeting. As darkness falls, the lucidity abruptly turns to mayhem when a maniac arrives at the home, rings the bell and proceeds to slaughter ( and I mean slaughter) Alexia's parents, her kid brother and even the family St. Bernard. The unidentifiable madman binds Alexia and tosses her in the back cabin of his truck (a truck that rivals the bad-ass wheels in Jeepers Creepers). Helpless and hiding, Marie watches the abduction and slips by the killer into the open fields surrounding the home. In a courageous attempt to free her friend, she sneaks into the truck...and that's when the fun begins.
High Tension is a hardcore, no frills, slasher flick that makes no excuses for what it is. It is relentless, visceral to it's core and crosses boundaries American filmmakers --to this point-- don't have the stones to cross. It encapsulates a throwback feel from the 70's and early 80's, when the plots were simple, and the murder scenes were the focus. Alexandre Aja's freshman effort in the horror realm is top notch. Within minutes of the opening credits, the tension (no pun intended) mounts and from there, never flounders or fades. The film moves along at a harried pace and delivers truly unforgettable guts and gore. Be warned, High Tension is not for the faint of heart. This film will shock you, and disturb you the way horror films should -- like a punch between the eyes. Aja creates a believable killer portrayed by Phillipe Nahon. There are no snappy one-liners, no posturing, his silence speaks volumes--and what's bothersome is , most likely, this is how sadistic killers are. You get a great feel from our female protagonists and just when you think you know where the film is heading, it takes a different turn.
Now listen up, any film (especially horror films) is about interpretation and how YOU digest it. When the killer first arrives, we, the audience, have no idea who he is and why he has chosen this family to terrorize. That's the coolest part of a film like High Tension, you can allow your mind to fill in the blanks. The soundtrack selection combined with the sound effects add to it's grit and raises the creep factor to uncomfortable levels. This film will undoubtedly get under your skin and will not be easily forgotten.
In vein of such films as Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and George A. Romero's Martin, the acting is solid, the plot is simple and script provides one hell of a climactic hook in the end. For it's classification, a through and through slasher gore fest, it's near flawless.
Score: A rare 10 out of 10 Ghouls