Posts Tagged ‘slasher films’

Haute Tension (High Tension): In 2003 Alexandre Aja first took a stab at the horror genre with this film. It turns out that he didn’t just stab it, he stuck a knife in it and watched it die as Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues blasted in the background. Yes, Haute Tension is about women being stalked by a madman and no, it isn’t without clichés. But director Aja has turned the volume so way up that even the most tediously obvious aspect of the film is viscerally played out. Unwittingly, we go along for the ride and unexpectedly, we relish every bit of it.

The film’s storyline follows two women and their desperate fight for survival to avoid death by mutilation. See, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) and Marie (Cécile de France) just wanted to spend a quiet weekend at the latter’s house, hoping to do a bit of studying and subtle teasing of erotica. Unfortunately Alexandre Aja‘s all like “fuck that shit” and lets loose the meanest motherfucker I’ve ever seen. Sure, there have been mean motherfuckers in other films who have been just as vicious with their intentions, but never as much in their actions. Every stomp on the head, every shove towards the wall and every backhanded slap served by the psychotic trucker (Philippe Nahon) had such visceral energy in them. Nahon also played The Butcher in Gaspar Noe’s Seul Contre Tous, which makes me doubly sure that his agent is one sick fuck.

His introduction in Haute Tension is just a flat out brutal sequence with Pierre André‘s bone-crunching sound effects and Sophie Vermersch‘s slick-as-fuck editing that really builds the tension up, shifting beautifully between the killer’s thirst for blood and Marie’s realization that the situation is completely fucked up. Maïwenn and Cécile are respectable as hapless victims looking to survive a nightmare; not as great as the ladies from Wolf Creek, but still, nothing offensively bad like the teenagers in remakes of American horror films. Andrei Finti briefly brings us to the theater of dramatic acting as Alex’s dad, but is quickly disposed off in a moment that makes the curb stomp scene from American History X look like one of the auditions for the lost sitcom – So You Think You Can Bitchslap.

Then there’s the climax, the revealing of the truth, the opening of Misty Beethoven. Oops sorry, Seventies porn flashback. The innocuously tender twist at the end looks almost apologetic, considering Dario Argento has been scripting such false endings for forty years. No prizes for guessing either. In fact if you were expecting something else, you simply haven’t watched enough slasher films.

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