Comedy of terrors
The American-influenced French film "Haute Tension" is competent and suspenseful, but ultimately does little more than extend the running joke that is the slasher flick.
By JOSHUA TANZER
I can't think of a better review of "Haute Tension" than the one given by the guy sitting behind me in the theater. I quote:
"HAHAHAHA! OH SHIT! HAHA!"
Somehow there's no such thing as a horror movie anymore the whole genre has turned into a form of latter-day slapstick. Why are people laughing at a movie like "Haute Tension," with its severed body parts and lovingly splattered crimson corn syrup? Because it's a big joke. Whatever you saw last summer, whether it was the tongue slicing or the power drill through the forehead, somebody's already thinking up something nuttier for this year.
|Original title: Haute Tension.|
Directed by: Alexandre Aja.
Written by: Alexandre Aja, Gr使ory Levasseur.
Cast: C残ile De France, Ma婦enn Le Besco, Philippe Nahon, Franck Khalfoun,, Andrei Finti, Oana Pellea, Marco Claudiu Pascu, Jean-Claude de Goros,, Bogdan Uritescu, Gabriel Spahiu.
Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre.
Edited by: Baxter.
In French with English subtitles.
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Enter Alexandre Aja and Gr使ory Levasseur a young French director and writer with a good enough command of the horror schtick to have lined up their next project with Wes Craven. Their "Haute Tension" ("High Pressure") has moments of undeniable suspense, but in the end it boils down to just another schlocky exercise in finding new ways to show people being sliced into little bleeding pieces.
Among the candidates for being sliced into little bleeding pieces are Marie (C残ile De France) and her onetime schoolmate Alex (Ma婦enn Le Besco), who has invited her out to the family's country home for a couple of nights. Little does either of them suspect that another visitor the burly driver of a rustbucket delivery truck who keeps unspeakable mementos of the yokels he's killed along the way is lumbering in the direction of their little slumber party.|
There are some undeniable "high tension" moments as the bad guy, whose face is kept obscure for most of the picture, wreaks doom upon this house and attempts to chase down the last survivors. But something is still wrong. Like almost everyone who's made a horror movie in the last twenty years, these filmmakers go for the "HAHA! OH SHIT!" reaction instead of some truly human reaction. Thinking up new ways to sever someone's head (in this case, one involves a staircase and another involves a circular saw) has become like thinking up a new one-liner for Letterman, meant only to titillate us with its novelty. Ha ha. Oh shit. Ha. Next.
Maybe horror is not a genre what we call horror movies boil fundamentally down to either of two things: bad comedies or good tragedies. And what makes the difference is this did the filmmakers put their energy into making you believe in the blood or in the people?|
Aja and Levasseur are the blood-first kind of filmmakers. Their characters are given no actual human qualities except two: 1. The desire to go on living instead of becoming human tartare. 2. The hint of sexual impurity of the sort that gets horror-movie characters slashed to death. If they weren't exceptionally well acted by the two lead actresses, you'd know the movie was a joke from the first frame.
The film ends with a logically impossible final twist somebody would have to be in two places at once, to say the least, for the story to make sense. Speaking at the end of a festival screening, the filmmakers insisted that was okay because what they're showing is the story as the deranged killer would tell it. Audience members, who seemed to enjoy the show overall, still didn't seem to buy that excuse. In the end, Aja and Levasseur seem like talented dilettantes, quite competent in the scene-by-scene mechanics of the slasher movie, but too in love with fantasies of human mutilation to get the details right.
|AUGUST 24, 2004|
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Reader comments on High Tension:
the 3 from Sid, Jun 2, 2005
song from jaime calderon, Jun 19, 2005
So HOT from ashley, Jun 24, 2005
Wow from Peetie, Nov 5, 2005
awsome from Jessica, Mar 8, 2006
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