If you are a conformist and want to experiment with some hitherto unexplored film fields and delve into different genres, there is hardly a better introduction than the French genre called New French Extremity.
A new wave of French horror gained momentum at the beginning of the new millennium and spawned a number of promising filmmakers. One of many is Alexandre Aja, better known to a global audience for his mostly successful rendition of the cult title “Hills Have Eyes” and a frivolous 3D experiment with piranhas.
The title of the film – Haute Tension (translation: High Tension) – faithfully hints and suggests to the viewer what awaits him during the 90 minutes of this tense, bloody game of cat and mouse, inspired by the cult slasher genre titles of the 70s and 80s.
Haute Tension Synopsis (High Tension Synopsis)
Marie and Alex, friends and students, decide to go to the village to visit Alex’s parents to get some rest there and prepare for the exams. An idyllic house set in solitude, amidst greenery, a dog, a parrot and Alexi’s hospitable parents are a promising formula for a relaxing weekend.
But, one night, a stranger knocks on their door and after only a few minutes it becomes clear that their idyllic weekend has turned into a terror that, it seems, has no end…
Haute Tension Review (High Tension Review)
Shooting angles, camera and effects are really special and unusual and raise uncertainty. The acting is great! The soundtrack is good (the song “Newborn” by Muse is used on 2 occasions in the film) and combines sounds and melody.
As the film progresses, the plot becomes more and more interesting and uncertain, but more experienced viewers will be able to predict a big twist prematurely. Although it can be predictable, it is quite efficient because it is well presented.
We also emphasize the efficient use of reflections in mirrors, something that Aji will later use in the horror film “Mirrors”. The scenery is raw, at times claustrophobic, causes a feeling of dirt and fits perfectly into the overall atmosphere of the film. The R mark was used to the extreme and justified. Scenes of violence are well portrayed.
The scene in which the film antagonist appears for the first time is morbid, unusual, brutal and memorable. It is this moment that is crucial for the rest of the film, it serves as a solid foundation for the later development of events.
The violent nature of the film, the time span during which the action takes place, and even the environment in which the characters are located are reminiscent of Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, with Aja’s film far more explicit in depicting violence, but also more layered at its core. With a bloodthirsty background, some of the topics the film deals with are sexuality, fetishism, intrusion into the human psyche and mind, which leads us to screenwriting decisions.
The moves that ‘Haute Tension’ (aka ‘High Tension’) pulls are brave, they provoke a rethinking of what has been previously seen, and their lack of compromise does not leave the viewer feeling bored. Feelings go to extremes, from complete delight to disgust and anger. The gray zone does not exist, the film has divided its audience into two completely opposite hemispheres, and this is exactly what makes this work special.