High Tension (2003) aka Haute Tension Movie Review
Written By: JEH
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Alexandre Aja
Producers: Alexandre Arcady, Robert Benmussa
Writers: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur
Date Released: June 18, 2003
Cécile de France as Marie
Maïwenn as Alex
Philippe Nahon as The Killer
Andrei Finti as Alex’s father
Oana Pellea as Alex’s mother
Franck Khalfoun as Jimmy
Marco Claudiu Pascu as Alex’s brother
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
To prepare for an upcoming examination, college students Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn) head to Alex’s secluded farmhouse for peace and quiet. While Marie prepares for bed, a strange man rings the doorbell and Alex’s father (Andrei Finti) answers the door. The mysterious man forcefully enters the house, brutally murders Alex’s family, and kidnaps Alex. Marie follows the mad man to save her friend and to end the night of horror.
Haute Tension (2003) is a slasher film that does not hold back on the gore. Aside from stabbing, expect a couple of decapitations, throat-slitting, and head bashing. There’s blood in almost every scene; sometimes it looks good, sometimes unnatural. There’s just something quite off with the blood spatter work in the scenes. Also, some practical effects could be done better. But overall, the gore still shocks or maybe entertains.
There are nudity and masturbation scenes in this film as well as an oral sex scene with a decapitated head.
The Grave Review
Haute Tension (2003), which translates directly into English as “High Tension”, is an apt title. After introducing the characters of the story, the film immediately jumps into terror, going from 0 to 100 quickly. While home invasion is an overly done setting, Haute Tension (2003) does something that makes it memorable.
At the beginning of the movie, you’ll already know that something terrible is going to happen. A farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a crazed necrophiliac killer-rapist, and a suspicious family are all ingredients for unfortunate events. But the movie does not tell the audience that these things are supposed to be scary. Instead, it heightens fear by building an unsettling atmosphere. So when the worst happens, the feeling of impending doom is justified and the suspense becomes almost suffocating. The scene when Marie tries to come up with a plan to hide and escape from the killer is a good example of showing and not telling. As she works on her escape plans, Marie hears the horrors happening downstairs. Not only is this panic-inducing, but it also adds fuel to the already high tension.
The camera work and the acting are important factors in creating the film’s suffocating atmosphere. Along with the music, it pulls the viewers into the story, feeling what the characters feel. Also, including New Born by Muse as a song in the film is a good choice. The song captures Marie’s desire to end the terror while dealing with something greater than fear.
If you’ve seen a fair amount of horror classics, you will notice that Haute Tension (2003) is strongly reminiscent of The Last House on the Left (1972), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Halloween (1978). Alexandre Aja created the film as a love letter to these classics and more. Can you spot the homages Aja included in the movie?
The first half of the film does a good job of putting viewers on the edge of their seats. However, the second half has viewers divided on whether to love or to hate the film. (Heavy spoilers ahead! Skip if you want to enjoy the revelation.) The plot twist is shocking. Not because it’s a good one but because it feels disconnected. Haute Tension (2003) loves to reference movies, and the twist is meant to impress like The Sixth Sense (1999). Unfortunately, the twist tries too hard. Marie revealed as the killer is mindblowing, but the more you think about it, the wider the plot holes get. Maybe if the twist is revealed in a different, clever way, it’ll work better. But the twist only takes away the charm of the film.
Overall, Haute Tension (2003) is still a must-see film. Despite its faults, it gives a raw and truly terrifying experience. Enjoy the movie as it is and appreciate the bloody artistry. If you’ve been craving for a slasher gore done right, give this a shot.
For the above reasons, Grave Reviews gives Haute Tension (2003) three graves out of five graves.
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