Halloween Horror Movie Month: High Tension (2003)

I don’t care who you think it may be showing up to your door at 4 a.m, you always gotta bring a weapon or crazy shit like this happens.

Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) are two young women intent on spending a quiet weekend in the country with Alex’s family. When a brutal killer turns up and abducts Alex, slaughtering her family in the process, it’s up to Marie to save her friend before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

This is one of those infamous horror movies from the early 21st Century that dared to push the limit. This, along with other splatter-horror flicks like Hostel, Saw, The Descent, and many others just said, “Hey horror! We’re going to make you one bad-ass mothatrucka again and get you away from all of those sissy, J-horror remakes that are all rated PG-13.” Okay, maybe none of them said those exact words but it doesn’t matter, because these guys really pushed the element and one of those main directors who did was Alexandre Aja.

Now if anybody has seen Piranha 3D (the original that came out in 2010, not that sequel shit that ruined my eyes) you have to know what this director can do. He offers some blood, gore, tension, sleaziness, but altogether, a fun time. Here, that is exactly the case and it provides for one of the more enjoyable and tense pieces of horror that I have seen in quite some time. The story starts off boring with a bunch of lame-ass English dubs that almost make this movie look like a Bruce Lee kung-fu movie from the 70’s and I really thought it was going to be a whole distraction. Then, one of the girls start to masturbate and it’s really just random and I thought to myself, “Jeezus, this film is just losing more and more points by the minute.” But then, there’s a knock at the door, and then thankfully, that’s when everything really started to come together in one, full-swing.

One thing you should be warned about with this flick is that it is downright disgusting at points. Aja does a good job of keeping the violence very subtle at times, but when the guy wants to get in-your-face about it, then he doesn’t leave anything out at all. Not a single organ is left unseen here and it is at times, very gruesome and discomforting to watch, but it was pretty neat how he allowed the gore to bring real color to some scenes that seemed like it needed it. There’s this one scene that I’m pretty sure many of you people have seen where one of the girls gets into a car, and the bad-guy with the buzz-saw comes after her and just shreds-up the driver of the car and it creates a huge blood-splash that goes everywhere in the car. It’s a very wonderful shot and one of the very few instances where Aja knows how to use his gore to his effect and strength.

Seeing that this film is called High Tension, I went in expecting that and that is exactly what I got with this flick. The whole element behind this film that intrigued me was how most of it is shot in real-time where we are simply following the events as they happen and there is barely anything ever left out. This allows us to feel like we are right there for this torturous ride and some of the scenes that Aja places in here, just gave me chills going all throughout my spine and it had me wondering just what was going to happen next. Sadly, what happened next was probably one of the main elements about this film that pissed me off.

The whole film for about an hour or so, was absolutely kicking ass and I really could not get enough of it but then, for some odd reason, Aja felt the need to add in a nice little twist because all horror films need one, right? In horror films, people can’t just kill people because they like it, right? Without giving too much away, the twist at the end makes this whole film seem pretty dumb and almost very unbelievable. It’s sort of like the horror film Silent House that came out recently, it has a twist that’s supposed to be one, big clever change-up of the whole story, and it doesn’t add anything else other than a bunch of confusion from people who don’t need it, especially when they are just letting their brains rot on horror movies. It wasn’t so bad to the point of where I was almost fed-up with the whole film, but it definitely changed my opinion on my final score.

As for the acting, it’s pretty good even though they aren’t really given much dialogue to work with here. Cécile de France has a good look as Marie because she doesn’t really seem like the type of strong-willed chick that would be willing to stay alive and face-off against this dude, but somehow she shows a great deal of strength and aggression in a role that actually needed it, in my opinion. I also have to give bonus points to the guy who plays the killer because he doesn’t really get the chance to show his full face until the very end, but the whole time he is just terribly intimidating and scary, and it was a pretty good idea on the part of Aja to give us a faceless killer. Just adds more creepiness to him as a whole.

Consensus: Though the plot twist really shakes things up by the end, and in a bad way, High Tension still delivers on the, ahem, tension, blood, and gore that helps further the plot more and more into one sick journey that never seems to stop.



  1. Thanks for reminding me about this one, Dan. I remember seeing the trailer for this a while back and thinking it looked pretty damn scary, and then I went and forgot about it since. It’s now front and center and I’ll be checking this out sometime this month.

  2. You’re right – the ending very nearly ruined the film. It’s one of those endings that undermines the rest of the film. It makes you go back through what you’ve just watched, picking the holes and inconsistencies.

    I watched this with my friend and when the credits rolled, he declared it the worst film he’d ever seen. He said he was intellectually offended by the ending! Can’t really argue with him…

    As far as slashers go, it’s one of the best.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this review.
    Like you said, the ending is dumb and ruins much of the film. I was going to give it a very good score (I watched it right before Halloween last year), but the ending nearly killed it. Same thing goes with Silent House as you point out. Horror flicks need to stop throwing in twists just for the sake of having one. It’s time to have killers that just kill because they want and can. In fact, there’s no need to even explain why or think it’s because they had a troubled childhood. Some people are just evil. I really believe that.

  4. The first 30-40 minutes of the film are terrific. At that time the film is creepy and disgusting, and the audience has no idea as to what’s going on. Then the film kicks it into autopilot mode throughout the second act and the third act makes the entire film superfluous.

    I hate the film in its entirety because of the third act’s plot twist and that it doesn’t make any sense. The best scene in the film was the opening sequence and the third act ruins it all. That was enough to make me hate the entire film.

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