Haute Tension [High Tension aka Switchblade Romance] (2003)

(In French, On Cable TV, November 2017) Curiosity may or may not kill the cat, but it certainly leads movie reviewers to questionable choices, such as watching Haute Tension despite not liking extreme horror and knowing all about the film’s certifiably insane Big Twist. A core movie in the “New French Extremity” curriculum of extremely violent and intentionally transgressive horror movies, Haute Tension is also an early calling card for writer/director Alexandre Aja, who has since gone on to a Hollywood career. Since I don’t really like gory horror, I put Haute Tension on as background noise while I was doing something else and dared the movie to catch my attention. It only did so in small moments: there is a lot of screaming and crying in the film as it seems to show a woman trying to rescue her friend from a psycho killer. Québec-based French-language horror movie channel “FrissonTV” doesn’t provide closed captioning yet, but that doesn’t matter much given that most of the film’s soundtrack is composed of crying, screaming or disquieting musical cues in-between bouncy pop songs used ironically. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Haute Tension is that it does provide a lot of foreshadowing for the Big Twist (starting with one of the film’s first lines, “I dreamt I was chasing myself”) but also more grist for calling it completely bonkers. Even shrugging off the film as having an unreliable narrator really doesn’t explain much of the film’s first half (including an entire truck). Is it important, though? The point of Haute Tension isn’t the plot or the heroine-as-psycho-killer twist: it’s about the various violent deaths graphically portrayed, the relentless tension of the film and the writer/director impressing horror-loving audiences with whatever horror-loving audiences love to see. I’m not part of that audience, so even noting that the film’s big twist makes partial sense and pointing out that the tension is often effective doesn’t really mean that I liked the result. But I was curious about Haute Tension and now I’m not curious any more, which means that I can scratch the film from my to-see list and move on to something else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *