31 Screams in October, #9: High Tension (2003)

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

High Tension (2003)

Director: Alexandre Aja

Starring: Cécile de France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon

Obsession is a powerful, more often than not unhealthy emotion. Since the dawn of time, it has led to countless deaths. In Troy, obsession over one woman led to war, which led to the downfall of an entire society. In 1981 America, President Ronald Reagan was nearly assassinated because of John Hinckley’s infatuation with actress Jodie Foster. Other sad and pathetic creatures have killed using certain forms of media as a template leading the public to blame the videogames, movies, TV, and comic books… instead of those truly responsible. Most of those who commit these acts do not live to adequately explain their actions. Those who do survive are sometimes too unhinged to be of any real help to the authorities.

Marie (Cécile de France) is going with her best friend, Alex (Maïwenn), on a trip to Alex’s family home. This will prove to be far from the normal “meet the parents” scenario. Later that night, Marie reveals to us what we may have already guessed: her feelings for Alex have evolved beyond friendship. She confirms this for us as she masturbates while listening to music and thinking of her friend, having caught a glimpse of Alex naked in the shower.

While this bit of innocence is unfolding, something more sinister is about to knock on the door in the form of a truck driving serial killer (Philippe Nahon). Nothing identifiable is revealed about this big and burly man, not even his name. What is known is that he will kill with passion, and without any discrimination between the elderly or the young. Before very long at all, he brutally murders Alex’s entire family and kidnaps her. In love with Alex, Marie gives chase. Both she and the killer seem to have the same objective: neither wants anyone coming between them and the object of their obsession, Marie.

This is not the sort of movie that tap-dances around when it comes to violence. The original, uncut version (available in unrated form in the US on DVD and Blu-Ray) carries with it the dreaded NC-17 rating. Much of “High Tension” is either soaked in blood or shrouded in mystery (often both all at once). Despite this, all you will ever need know about what’s really going on is provided within the film’s opening scene, after which the rest of the movie serves as a flashback. Typically, slasher films would wait to show you this scene until the end of the film, but director Alexandre Aja knows exactly what he’s doing.

France has been turning out a slew of modern horror classics within the last 10+ years. Right now, they’re the kings of the genre in terms of creativity, and it all started with this one. Director Alexandre Aja has been the biggest beneficiary, directing and producing American horror. Probably his most recognizable work is the 2006 remake of “The Hills Have Eyes,” which, as remakes go, is actually rather decent. He may not have been working with Hollywood-level equipment and personnel on “High Tension” (which sports CGI that is at times a bit obvious, when practical makeup effects would work just as well) but he’s got a good story and terrific lead actors. Obsessed with the horror genre, and the slasher film in particular? “High Tension” is right up your alley.


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