French slasher film destined to become a cult classic

12/19/08

French slasher film destined to become a cult classic



High Tension (France, 2003)
a.k.a. Haute Tension

Written and Directed by Alexandre Aja

Plot summary: Two college girlfriends (Marie and Alexia) escape to Alexia's parents' country home for rest and to study. Their respite is brutally interrupted by a mysterious killer on the rampage. Very little dialogue. Some subtitles.

My review: All I can say is....wow. French director Alexandre Aja (writer-director of this summer's Mirrors and 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes) is obviously a great fan of the horror film and has studied the genre conventions well. High Tension covers familiar territory, yet Aja is able to find a new way to present it that's absolutely riveting. Yes, there is a lot of blood, but that is not the raison d'etre of the movie -- the focus is on building tension rather than letting loose the gore, creating dread rather than disgust.

While on the surface this movie may seem nothing but a rip-off of other classic slasher films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, think again. High Tension achieves something very few horror movies have been able to these days -- it draws the viewer into the horror on a personal level. It is impossible to remain unmoved. This movie crawls under the skin and will linger for a long time. This is thanks in large part to the lead actress Cécile De France, who plays Marie. Her performance is remarkable for its sheer rawness and intensity. A lot of credit must also be given to cinematographer Maxime Alexandre and the haunting original score by François Eudes.

Movie buffs will be interested to know that the special effects (of which there are many) are created by renowned horror make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi, a favorite of late Italian director Lucio Fulci (the godfather of zombie cinema).

The Cryptkeeper


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