High Tension (Haute Tension)

Rating: ★★½☆☆

It’s also high on fear, suspense, blood, blades, severed heads, dead bodies, and scratches. The actors hired for this production were paid not to memorize scripts. No. Though you will hear screams like, “Aaaahhh!” a few times, I doubt those lines needed much effort to remember. I’m imagining probable outtakes in the DVD extra where the cast rehearses moments of massacre while the crew waits for the third bucket of blood to be delivered.

The central characters in “High Tension” are college friends, Marie and Alex, who plan to stay in the house of Alex’s parents to study for their exams. When they arrive, we learn that the place is an Isolated Home, so when a serial killer invades, there will be no neighbours to hear them go, “Aaaahhh!” No time is wasted, and in the first night, the serial killer arrives, who is polite enough to knock on the door before he starts butchering everybody.

Marie is the first to notice that something is not right, so before she hides Under the Bed, she tries to Call for Help. Little does she know that in horror movies, phones will find a way to not work when you most need them. Marie stays hidden, but the killer kidnaps Alex, and locks her away in his truck as he drives away. Now Marie is left alone and forced to try to rescue Alex herself. The plot then leads up to a gas station and a forest, where more hiding and killings take place.

“High Tension” is also high on Horror Movie Clichés, and I enjoyed every one of them. They are done with an evidence of technical supremacy and discipline. Yes, the death scenes are vicious, brutal, and lengthened. (When a throat is slit, the killer keeps cutting deeper off-screen. We get to see the results.) But I was surprised to see this slasher flick devote many of its minutes to quiet, bloodless, gripping suspense. These are the parts where Marie sneaks and creeps her way past the killer, keeping her head.

For most hardcore horror fans, “High Tension” will be the slasher event most of them have been waiting for. Trim down the violence, and it might even earn appreciation for the less bloodthirsty. Three fourths into the movie, I was just about ready to give it a recommendation, and then…

And then.

And then we become witnesses to a plot twist, so impossible, so unnecessary, that it ruins everything in “High Tension”. Everything. The whole movie. All of it. We know that it is unnecessary because we know that it can’t be done. And we know that it can’t be done because the filmmakers themselves didn’t even attempt to explain anything about it.

To have the killer turn out to be Ronald McDonald himself would be a more satisfying twist, because we’d know that it’s only a joke. The plot twist in “High Tension” is proud of itself, and screams, “A-ha! We got you!”, to the audience. And we can’t help but go, “Aaaahhh!”

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High Tension (Haute Tension)