This week I took a look at Alexandre Aja’s High Tension (2003). It was an interesting film to watch. I was a fan of all the blood and grittiness of the film, plus it’s always a delight to watch something foreign since most of the dialogue is French. It’s a thrilling film from start to finish with a surprise ending that no one sees coming.
The movie follows two French college students, Marie (Cécile de France) and Alexia (Maïwenn). Alexia seems to be a fun and flirty girl, and it’s joked about that she dates men who already have girlfriends; at one point Alexia even admits, “I’m skeptical of single guys”. Marie on the other hand is a bit more reserved, boys aren’t exactly her main priority of study, she’s content with just being best friends with Alexia. The two girls are heading to Alexia’s parents’ farm house to quietly study for exams. However, in the evening a psychotic killer, Le tueur (Philippe Nahon) breaks into the house and brutally murders Alexia’s entire family. Marie is able to hide so that she is not found, but Alexia ends up getting kidnapped by the murderer. Marie sneaks in the truck that the killer has Alexia in and follows his trail in order to save her friend and escape from this monster.
High Tension is a brutal film. It’s got blood, gore and decapitated heads. The killer is truly a sick individual and is relentless with his kills. At one point he has Alexia restrained in the back of his car and he pours alcohol on her and teases her with a lit match; that’s a pretty deranged person. Although there are amazing kills, some of his murders are even hard to watch. I think the title of the film is fitting because tense is exactly what I felt in the gas station scene where Marie is trying to flee and seek assistance. I was anxious watching Marie maneuver around in this movie with fear that she might be caught by what seems like an unstoppable foe. But Marie is a pretty stealthy character herself, she carries herself through the film alone the majority of the time and holds her own which is pretty successful if you’re a final girl escaping her killer.
The killer is obsessed with keeping Alexia alive and we don’t really understand why until the climax of the film. It’s understandable why someone would want to have an attractive, sexually active girl with personality like Alexia all to themselves, unfortunately the big reveal on why Alexia is to be saved for last is one that I didn’t enjoy. I felt that there were plot holes that deferred the climax from making sense. I understand what the movie was trying to do with its ending, however I wasn’t a fan of how it was executed. The movie needed to be told in a different narrative for the ending to work.
The first hour of High Tension is amazing and on a path that I would highly recommend. It has extreme kills, a great build story-wise and chilling suspense, however the last twenty minutes took me out of the film and it was hard to get me back into it. I would still recommend watching High Tension, however there just might be a feeling of confusion after watching.