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Review of "High Tension"*Graphic*
A French horror film released in 2003, "High Tension" is directed by Alexendre Aja and distributed by Lionsgate films. Starring Cecile de France and Maiwenn, the film follows a young girl, Marie, who is staying with a friend, Alex, and her family. In the middle of the night a murderous psychopath attacks and forces the two young women into a intense and deadly plight.
With the original, uncut, film needing editing, some scenes were cut or shortened to make an R rating. For the purposes of this review, I'll be referring to the unedited edition. Spoiler alert for those who care to read on, and, at the end of the review, I've included a video collage of the most gruesome scenes in the film, instead of a trailer. I thought it would be more entertaining!
The film starts with an unknown woman wearing a hospital gown, and then we see a woman running through the woods from an unseen threat until she stops a passing car, bloodied. Marie awakes from this dream of hers, and is on her way to Alex's family's house for the night. There, they have dinner and go in for the night. However, later that night, the father answers the door ans is attacked by a man with a razor. He is then forced into place and beheaded by the mass of a bookcase. When the mother comes down, she see the brutal scene and screams.
Marie, hearing this, hurriedly fixes the room so it would appear no one has occupied it. At this point, the film is certainly living up to its name, as the rising tension sets the rest of the atmosphere for the film when the killer enters the room, searching. Marie narrowly escapes notice and flees to anther room, where she searches for the phone. Hiding in the closet after hearing a noise, Marie see the bloody mother crawl into the room and locate the phone. Before the mother can reach the closet, herself, the killer approaches her from behind and slashes her throat and, apparently for sadistic pleasure, cuts off her hand. He leaves and Marie kneels by the body, where the barely breathing and dying mother asks Marie, "Why? Why? Why?"
Finding the phone does not work, Marie leaves to Alex and promises to help her. Seeming extremely distraught in Marie's presence, Alex wails while the killer is heard, outside, shooting the little brother. Alex is taken into the killer's truck and Marie joins her, hiding with a knife, but the killer simply locks the door and starts to drive. Arriving at a gas station, Marie leaves the knife with Alex and sneaks out for emergency assistance.
Assistance the clerk, however, is soon unable to provide, when the killer chops him up with an axe! Since the killer drives away from the station, Marie calls the police to report such horrendous deeds and chases the truck with the attendant's car. Marie is soon outsmarted, though, when the killer backtracks around her and rams her off the road. Before this, she found that a gun she swiped from the station had the bullets removed by the killer. Hiding (yes, again) in a greenhouse, and after several suspenseful scenes, Marie manages to kill her assailant and return to Alex.
The dramatic twist is revealed, finally, when the police see on the cameras at the past gas station and present crime scene that Marie had actually killed the attendant, not a serial killer. Well, technically a serial killer, who happened to be Marie. Therefore, she had also killed Alex's family and taken her hostage. She returns to Alex, insanely claiming that she killed the bad guy. The poor girl is understandably upset and doesn't take Marie's good news so well, stabbing her ex-friend and running off. Marie, now shown occassionally as the man, runs after her love with a buzz saw.
In the climax of the film, a car pulls over to a crying Alex. Yet the driver is not rewarded for his kindness, being sawed to death through his windshield by Marie. Injured by climbing through a window out of the car, Alex crawls away with a crowbar in her hand. Tormented sadistically up close with the saw, Marie asks Alex if she loves her, to which Alex replies by piercing Marie's chest with the crowbar. At the mental institution, reaches out for Alex, who she can sense behind the glass.
Final Thoughts: No doubt there is plenty of suspense, or tension, throughout the movie, but with the plot hole of the twist so seriously detracting from the enjoyability of the film, I can't rate it as high as I'd like to. There is more than enough blood and gore to satisfy most thrill seekers, so kudos to them for that and I'd advise the unrated edition for the best, and most gruesome, experience. Marie was also very well played at the end as, what we in the mental health industry call, a crazy bitch. Enjoyable enough, worth a second watch to go back for the whole picture, knowing Marie is the perpetrator of bloodshed. 7/10
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