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Review: High Tension (2004)

High Tension (2004) 

Directed by: Alexandre Aja

Premise: A woman (Cecile De France) plays a cat and mouse game with an Ed Gein-like killer (Philippe Nahon) after he murders her friend’s entire family.

What Works: This is a very grim picture. It utilizes extreme violence mingled with sexuality to create an atmosphere that is very uncomfortable. It eschews plot or character development to rattle the viewer and shake them out of any of the comforts of a traditional narrative. The film becomes more disorienting and far more effective this way.

What Doesn’t: The film inserts a reversal in the last fifteen minutes that does not work at all because it betrays the audience’s understandings about the drama and does not further our understanding of the events. While the horror genre tends to reject traditional narrative form, High Tension carries it too far and opens up too many holes in the preceding footage.

Bottom Line: High Tension is one of the most violent and savage horror films to come along in quite awhile but this is actually quite refreshing, especially after a lot of the disappointing PG-13 horror films released this spring. Fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wes Craven’s early work, and other 1970s exploitation films will want to see this. Mainstream audience and sensitive viewers should be aware of the film’s level of violence.

Episode: #55 (June 12, 2005)