Review by Gordon Justesen
Cecile De France, Maiwenn, Philippe Nahon
Director: Alexandre Aja
Audio: French Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2005
CAN’T ESCAPE FROM ME, BITCH!”
If there’s one
thing that French filmmakers have demonstrated, it’s that they are true to
film genres. Two of the best action films of this year, Hostage and the remake of Assault
on Precinct 13, have come from a French visionary. And now the horror genre
has returned to its bloody roots with the glorious gory High Tension.
Aja and screenwriter Gregory Levasseur are horror movie fanatics, and if that
doesn’t qualify as proper credentials for making a pure horror movie, then I
don’t know what is. Aja and Levasseur grew up, like many horror fans, on the
films of the 70s, particularly The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre and the early works of Wes Craven. They made this film
with the intention of bringing the horror genre to the French film market, which
I’m sure it certainly will.
Tension is a true homage to
the popular gorefests of the 70s with a psychological twist. The truth of the
matter is that the film is perhaps the most eerie and disturbingly effective
horror movie since The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre, or even The Last House on
the Left, meaning it takes no prisoners and is not intended for the
squeamish. Although the movie ends with a twist that keeps it from being a
complete masterpiece, the overall effect is nonetheless shattering.
The story opens
with best friends Marie (Cecile De France) and Alexia (Maiwenn), traveling to
Alexia’s family home in the French countryside for a weekend away from
college. Even though they are happy to be away from campus for just a couple of
days, Alexia reminds Marie that they still have studying to do. Before they get
there, Alexia decides to play a spontaneous game of nighttime hide and seek in a
corn field near her home.
They arrive at
their destination and are settled in quickly. But their vacation takes a
nightmarish turn when a hulking menacing madman arrives at their doorsteps and
unleashes an unimaginable massacre. Marie is frightened beyond words. She
succeeds in hiding from the killer’s clutches, but it can’t stop her from
witnessing several grisly killings.
everyone in her family, the killer takes Alexia as a hostage. From this point
on, the movie becomes nearly free of dialogue, as the primary concern is Marie
getting from spot to another in order to save her friend’s life. Hardly ever
has a single movie created a more authentic predator and prey scenario.
There are two key
elements in High Tension that play a
big part in delivering a chilling effect. They are cinematography and the sound.
The camera follows Marie’s every movie with such eerie detail in a number of
key scenes that you swear she’s really fighting for her life. And the
soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in any horror movie, as it helps in
multiplying the effect of the already terrifying sequences of terror.
As I mentioned
earlier, the movie throws a surprising twist, and while other fright-fests like Saw
and Identity have pulled this off successfully, it’s perhaps the one
flaw that keeps High Tension from
being the horror masterpiece it could’ve been. Nevertheless, the twist allows
for an even bigger dose of blood and gore that will definitely have you ducking
for cover. Let’s put it this way, I am never going anywhere near a power saw
for as long as I live thanks to this movie.
If you think that
horror movies have lost their touch since the heydays of Hooper, Craven and
Argento, then you’re in for a real treat. High
Tension is a film that knows its audience and what they’ve come to see.
The movie is pure triumph of unrelenting terror and gore.
anamorphic presentation is downright amazing. As I mentioned before, the
cinematography serves as a key element in the movie’s overall effect, and the
video presentation does this notion absolute justice. About 90 percent of the
movie takes place at night, and the image quality does not falter a bit even
with this challenging circumstance. Many set pieces, most notably the finale in
a woodsy area, display amazing visual impact.
Likewise with the
sound, Lions Gate has delivered one outstanding transfer. For this Unrated
release, the sound is offered in multiple formats. The 5.1 mix is offered in
both French and English, but if you want the full effect, I suggest going with
the original French director’s cut in 5.1, because if you go with the American
version you are going to get a mildly bad dubbed edition that takes the effect
away. The 5.1 mix on the French version is astounding, and delivers the kind of
jolt that we come to expect from this genre on DVD. Right from the opening
sequence, your speakers will be rocked, to say the least. What lies ahead is
nothing but strong, dynamic sound!
Lions Gate has done
this disc quite right with the extras. Featured is a commentary track with
director Alexandre Aja and screenwriter Gregory Levasseur, as well as an
introduction. Also included are selected scenes with optional commentary with
the Aja and actress Cecile De France, as
well as three well made featurettes; “Haute Horror: The Making of High
Tension”, “Building Tension” and Gianetto de Rossi: The Truth, The
Madness, and The Magic. Rounding out the extras is a lengthy Lions Gate trailer