High Tension (2003)

high tension poster 2003 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Some good visuals

Potential is dashed due to a twist ending that feels gimmicky

Movie Info

Movie Name:  High Tension

Studio:  EuropaCorp

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  July 18, 2003

MPAA Rating:  R

high tension cecile de france maiwenn

You through a crappy sleepover…

Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn) are best friends.  They are headed out for a weekend in the country at Alex’s home and plans to study for their exams.  When a home invasion by a big burly man (Philippe Nehon) occurs during the night, Alex’s family is killed, and Alex is taken hostage.  It is up to Marie to free Alex and save her from the killer.

Directed by Alexandre Aja, High Tension (Haute tension) a French horror thriller.  The movie received strong box-office returns in a limited run and a highly edited version was released in the United States to receive an R-Rating (the unedited version was later released).  The film received poor marks from critics but quickly gained a cult following.

I heard talk of High Tension before it was released (I even heard about it when it was Switchblade Romance…the UK title).  When I finally did see it, I liked the tense set-up of the movie and a number of the horror scenes…but like many, the twist ending left me scratching my head.  A ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review as a result.

high tension cecile de france closet

I can’t look/I am looking

High Tension revels in its gore (which is over the top, bloody, and intense) and terror which is something that feels a bit lost in the current time.  Films are often too smart for their own good by trying to be clever and a post-modern approach.  The other side of films is the gore approach like Saw which does not do enough with the scare factor of horror (just the gross-out).  High Tension tries to find a middle ground and feels like a throwback slasher.  It just is not entirely successful due to the desire for a twist ending that is pretty sloppy.

The cast is not bad and both Cécile de France and Maïwenn are good as the female women-in-peril leads (it is obviously Cécile de France’s movie).  The killer is played by Philippe Nehon and despite being rather flat (intentionally), he is effectively scary.

high tension killer philippe nehon

It’s kill time!

You can’t talk about High Tension without talking about the end.  It is revealed near the end of the movie that Marie is unbalanced and responsible for the killings.  She pursues Alex (with a concrete saw) switching between her burly killer persona and Marie.  The beginning of the movie shows Marie in the hospital so you could perceive this as all a dream which would explain the horrible gaps in continuity and logic…it doesn’t really.  It just seems like a cop-out way for the writers to act like the twist works.  There are such big gaps in logic that regardless of the craziness (cars disappearing/reappearing, general character reactions, etc), it doesn’t even make sense.  The same idea has been done multiple times and in much better fashion.

High Tension loses a lot of credit due to the ending.  The tense horror and randomness of the crime is terrifying (like In Cold Blood), but attempts to streamline it into a unrequited love story with a character with a split personality needs a stronger basis if it hopes to work.  The twist is used as a gimmick and is not effective…it is an unfortunate side to a good thriller that could have been great…instead High Tension flounders.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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