High Tension

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The Intensity of High Tension

Oct 7, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Good casting and solid performances, the atmosphere and cinematography

Cons:The plot and its complete lack of originality

The Bottom Line: It's a solid slasher that would be fantastic if it wasn't a complete rip-off of something else.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

The movie by several titles: High Tension, Haute Tension, Switchblade Romance… Intensity? Oh wait, that was the book by Dean Koontz. Although if I were to describe the plot of the movie vs. the plot of the book, good luck figuring out which was which. I’m actually surprised by how little has been said about the, um, suspicious similarities. To say the least.

The plot (of both) follows two girls, Alex and Marie in the film, who head out to the country for a vacation from school. They arrive at the isolated farmhouse of Alex’s family expecting a weekend of relaxation and quiet. Instead, the family is slaughtered, Alex is chained and carried away, and the remaining Marie follows her friend in an attempt to save her. Both girls end up locked in the back of the killer’s van. The viewer anxiously watches as Marie attempts avoid the killer and find help, eventually ending in a heart-stopping confrontation between the two. The plots run pretty much parallel until about the last twenty minutes of the film. Then the film moves in a completely different direction, pulling a twist out of nowhere, and ending with what you could call a “homage” to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The plot was not this film’s strong point.

What the film did have going for it: decent direction and cinematography, very nice make-up effects and gore, and phenomenal acting. Cecile De France does an excellent job as Marie, the girl who manages to avoid the killer. She is able to balance nicely inner strength and abject terror. It is her fear that so effectively creates the tension that this movie does indeed contain. While it may be lacking in creativity it is certainly not lacking in atmosphere.

I actually really enjoyed the look of the film. A pleasant result of its low budget was a certain simplicity in the style. The crew had to make do with limited resources and I think that they managed well. The lighting is atmospheric but not overdone. There are the horror clichés but they’re subtle enough that they don’t overwhelm the senses. The film seems like an honest work of love rather than the pastiche or plain and simple rip-off that most modern horror films become.

Which is ironic considering High Tension is a complete and total rip-off of Dean Koontz’s novel. And that’s a shame because if it had been an original story, this would have possibly been one of my favorite horror films of recent release. As it is, I spent most of the movie guessing what was going to happen next and being fairly confused as to why Dean Koontz’s name appeared nowhere in the credits.

I would actually like to watch it again at some point and see if I can ignore the Intensity plot. I wonder if the experience would be better. I think that it might.

As far as the DVD goes, this film has received a nice treatment. Lion’s Gate originally released an R-rated, English dubbed version in the theaters. The un-rated DVD contains that version as well as the NC-17 US cut and the original French cut with options for English subtitles (the version I watched). In addition to the three versions of the film, there is a nice offering of extras that includes a couple of interviews with Aja, commentary by Aja and Cecile, trailers, and several other features. It’s definitely a DVD worth checking out.

I guess my final say would have to be that this was a decent slasher that unfortunately was completely lacking in the originality of the plot. If you aren’t familiar with Koontz’s novel or the mini-series that was made from it you’ll probably completely enjoy most of the film. The twist is a little hard to swallow no matter how you look at it but beyond its lack of credibility the ending is really very good.

And any way you slice it this film is incredibly violent and brutal. Like most films of the horror genre, its appeal will probably be limited to those fans of horror but for any fan its appeal is great.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age


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