Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Film Review: "Haute Tension" (C)

"Haute Tension," a French slasher flick, is one of those films that you either love or you hate. I don't really think it's possible to be in the middle on this one, unless you don't watch the end or choose to believe the insane plot twist in the closing minutes is just a figment of your imagination.

Now I've seen both versions of the film, both the R-rated and the uncut. I don't see much difference between the two honestly and I really don't care. I had such high hopes for this film and they were completely dashed within the first five minutes of the film. Now that might just be me. You see, that insane plot twist? I figured it out in the first five minutes. I knew what they were going to do, so the entire movie seemed utterly pointless and stupid to me. I also spent most of it trying to figure out the logistics, which makes it very hard to enjoy anything - including the copious violence and disturbing imagery. But that's just me.

I would argue that the film is actually enjoyable for everyone else until you find out the twist. Before that, there are some genuinely scary moments, most notably the minutes after the killer gets inside the house. Alexandra Aja, the director of the film, knows how to make his audience squirm. I'll give him that. When most directors pull away or have that thing in their head that tells them "don't do that," Aja does it. Which I think is pretty rare in horror today, especially with the flood of remakes and PG-13 bullshit. So when a filmmaker comes along and does something that makes me want to turn away (the dresser scene, for one) or makes something unpleasant to watch as opposed to one solid scare, well I'll give him credit for that.

I'll also give credit to the acting, which I thought was very good. Cecile de France is really the person I'm talking about here as she's on the screen for most of the time. I only wish she had a better script to work with, although prior to this twist I keep mentioning, there aren't too many things I was unhappy with. Although I did feel like the masturbatory scene was completely unnecessary, at least in terms of length. I got the point that she was carrying a lesbian crush after the first 10 seconds, thank you very much.

This isn't a film for everyone. It certainly isn't a film for people who are only passerby fans of the genre. It is one of the most hardcore films I've seen in recent years, but I do think that for most the end will piss you off and make you wish you had stopped the DVD or walked out right before anything else. In fact, do that - just assume everyone dies. When you sense something is going to be revealed, run very far away from the screen. And in that case, I'd give the film a solid A. But since I have to review the entire film, I say view it once and marvel at the violence and forget everything else.

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