There are times where you go into a movie with the belief that you will like it coming out. High Tension was one of these for me. It was supposed to be scary, well-acted, quick-paced, and have a twist that would actually impact the characters or the story. It was supposed to be one of the better slasher flicks out there, with a main villain who could go toe-to-toe with Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. While some of these statements are true, High Tension is a movie I ultimately didn’t like.
The story is simple and straightforward. A girl and her friend are staying at the girl’s parent’s house. The main character ends up being the friend, with her name being Marie (Cécile De France). The other’s name is Alex (Maïwenn) and these end up being the only characters we learn about. They are good friends, with just a little tension between the two. Even when Alex plays a joke aimed at Marie, the two make up quickly and continue on their way to Alex’s parent’s house. We don’t get a lot of character development, but it’s enough to give us a decent idea of the characters we are dealing with. Sadly, it isn’t enough to bring us to care about either of them.
The first night that they are at Alex’s parent’s place, things start going downhill quickly. A man shows up at the door of the house, and promptly murders Alex’s father. This is the event that begins a night-long series of events, eventually ending up with Alex and Marie being the only characters alive. Okay, I could see how that could be scary. You’re in a new house. You don’t know your way around it, and there is a killer on the loose. This is a good premise, and it is something that is commendable.
Unfortunately, the execution of this premise is lacking. Director Alexandre Aja has decided to ramp up the gore instead of attempting to scare people. Gore isn’t scary, but he seems to disagree. There are many murders, all of which result in the victim bleeding far more than any human being realistically would. Or, at least, that’s what I would imagine. Blood gushes out of everywhere that it can, and instead of being frightening, this ends up taking you out of the movie instead of terrifying you. You also won’t care enough about any of the characters to worry about them being killed off, meaning you basically are along for the ride, never in a position where you wish to prevent any of the gruesome murders presented on-screen.
Eventually, the action moves from the house to other locations. This is good; it gives the audience something else to look at. It’s just too bad that the film stops even attempting to be a horror film at this point. Sure, the murderer is still there, and characters we can somewhat relate to are still present, but there just isn’t anything scary about it. We can tell fairly early on that the killer is going to have a very hard time catching Marie, meaning that every time she is running away from him, we never have to worry about her.
I got a gore-filled slasher flick that isn’t very scary but is instead nearly laughable due to the excessive gore used.
The best part about High Tension is the fact that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, or at least, it doesn’t by much. It’s a short film, and this is very welcome for something that doesn’t have that much to offer to begin with. The ending did seem to drag on for longer than it should have, with events easily recreated in seconds taking minutes, but this is a minor gripe compared to the other problems the film has.
If nothing else, the film does have some above average acting. Cécile De France does quite a good job looking scared, and that’s about all she needs to do in a film like this. The killer is played by Philippe Nahon, and while we never get all that good of a look at him, he manages to be the best part of the film. Just watching Marie avoiding a threat that hasn’t arrived yet is actually kind of boring, but when the threat arrives, while there still isn’t much tension, there is at least an interesting character to look at.
Before I watched High Tension, I was well aware that there was a twist right at the end of the film. Fans were divided on the twist, with some believing that it added to the depth of the film, and also making it worthy of a second watch. Others believed that it completely ruined what was otherwise a pretty solid horror film. I actually fall into the former category. In fact, knowing the twist beforehand might actually improve the film. That way, when nothing much is going on, you can at least be looking for clues towards the twist. I wouldn’t go out of your way to spoil the film for yourself, assuming you decide to watch it, but I don’t think that avoiding any spoilers regarding it will hinder your overall enjoyment of it,
I was really looking forward to High Tension. It seemed like it had almost everything that I wanted from a short and sweet horror film. It didn’t end up having many of the elements I believed I was going to get. Instead, I got a gore-filled slasher flick that isn’t very scary but is instead nearly laughable due to the excessive gore used. The acting is just fine and the twist at the end of the film might make it worthy of a second watch, but only so that you can go through and attempt to find clues regarding it. The killer isn’t on par with other horror icons, possibly due to the fact that he isn’t actually shown that much, but he still manages to be a real threat. It’s just that there isn’t much tension within the film, the characters aren’t developed enough to make it scary, and it eventually degenerates into something that is sillier than a no-nonsense film should be.
Conclusion: High Tension is too silly to take seriously.
Recommendation: This is a movie that is only memorable because of its twist. It’s not worth seeing for that.