Sunday, February 19, 2006

High Tension

Title: Haute Tension (High Tension) aka Switchblade Romance (2005)
Dir: Alexandre Aja
Tagline: Hearts will bleed.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

This one is pretty controversial. I guess it falls under the category of love-it-or-hate-it, but I don't understand why. Barring the infamous cop-out twist, this film is fucking fantastic! So much so that I cannot help but forgive it for the aforementioned cop-out twist.

The film begins with two young girls visiting family in the countryside for some studying. One night a creepy dude with a switchblade shows up, hacks up the family, and kidnaps one of the girls. The other girl, our protagonist, tries to save her friend before the killer finally does whatever sick thing he's planning to do to her.

Like 99% of people who saw this movie, I disliked the twist (I am deliberately avoiding the word "ending" because the ending is quite good, except for the twist). The more I think about it, the more it bugs me because I can trace the fallacies in logic. Although, some fans claim there are no fallacies at all, just people too dense to understand what is actually going on. Hmmm. For that reason, I can't help but wonder if the twist isn't as bad as it looked. I'll have to mull it over for a while, and perhaps watch it again someday.

Nevertheless, the "twist" was absolutely unnecessary - that I can say with certainty. High Tension is so relentlessly brutal, and I love that! There was no need whatsoever for some flashy Shyamalan ending because as a horror movie, it completely stands on its own. The tension, the gore, the basic survivalist story - it is all top notch. The directing and acting are fantastic. The makeup effects are great. The underlying "romance" story may seem off-putting to some, but I thought it was really interesting. If only they left out that ridiculous twist....

Horror fans should delight in the violence. There are plenty of those classic "JESUS!" moments, where you are laughing and cheering while simultaneously disturbed. Some of the elements are predictable, but not really in a bad way. It's like those classic fun horror movies where you just know some girl is about to be gutted but you are on the edge of your seat in terror.

Really this film's only flaw is that goddamn twist. I blame the Americanization of horror films. Suddenly you can't make a horror movie without some lame twist ending. What's wrong with making a movie about a crazed killer and a girl fighting to survive? Both that plotline and twist endings have been beaten to death, but twist endings get old and stupid, while slasher stories do not - if well done. And it is well-done here. Very well-done. It did not need some mainstream twist bullshit to top it off. The movie seemed to be geared towarded American audiences (evidenced by the US release, the film's music, the title is even in English in the opening credits), so I blame that for the stupid twist. Tis a shame.

But like I said, twist aside, the film is such a good horror movie that I cannot simply throw it out. I forgive it for its flaw, and it'll just go down in my film memory as one of those movies that could've been so perfect, but tragically fell short.


lamarocket said...

This movie is brilliant, I agree with you (I also agree with you about the twist). I was surprised to see just how closely the film follows the story of "Intensity" by Dean Koontz, though. It's so similar!

Heather said...

Hmm, I haven't seen "Intensity" in forever (I never read it). Is that available on DVD yet? I remember that was the first time I saw the great John C. McGinley.

lamarocket said...

You know, I'm not sure if that's out on DVD yet. I don't see it listed at amazon. I caught it on Starz or Encore or one of those. John C. McGinley is great indeed, though!