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High Tension (Unrated)
DVD disk
Oct 11, 2005 By: Jason Coleman
High Tension (Unrated) order
Director:
Alexandre Aja

Actors:
Cecile De France
Maiwenn
Philippe Nahon

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A serial killer murders an entire family, except for the daughter, whom he takes hostage. It’s up to her best friend, who hides out of sight during the ordeal, to rescue her and stop the killer. It’s beauty vs. brawn.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
HIGH TENSION, is a great flick, for the mindless. If you're just out to see, flesh for flesh, people being murdered and mutilated, this is the flick for you. Myself, I like my horror like my coffee, not just black, but with cream and sugar. (And I don’t even drink coffee!) Some sense of irony, humor, or vision in a small dose can take a seemingly gross slasher flick and make it something more. In the case of HIGH TENSION, the tension is barely audible, but at least the kills are mostly believable, except the first gag of a head being taken off by a desk. (Can you imagine if Kathy Bates had swung the sledgehammer and taken James Caan’s foot completely off in MISERY?) But the film itself is more in love with being a homage to horror films, than being an original one. Some shots in the film seem stolen, from the bullet gag from THE HITCHER, to the end scene reminiscent of PSYCHO. (Not to mention TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, MANIAC, the list goes on!) That being said, many films do this and are still great. This one, in my opinion, is not. It’s fluff.

The performances are mediocre at best, except of course for lead De France, who does some interesting work here, only to be upstaged and have her work gutted by a “twist ending”. *Spoiler Alert Start * The ending here, sorry Director Aja, makes no sense. The director states that the film is a recollection from De France’s character, Marie. So throughout the film, she doesn’t see herself as the killer, but as the heroine. Fine. But why does Marie, at the end of the film, go visually from the male killer, to herself, and back again? She wouldn’t see herself as the male killer, would she? (Don't do shit just for the audience!) The filmmakers have said that producer Luc Besson told them to reveal the twist in the last third of the movie. A major mistake. If we had seen the gas station footage with Marie at the end of the film, after she told her story (which is how it was in the original script), it would have been chilling. In the final film, the ending feels just like it looks, tacked on. *Spoiler Alert End *

Lesson: Keep the discovery, which is through Marie’s eyes, going right up to the end. So we know, when she knows. That would be an original horror film worth watching.
THE EXTRAS
In the special features, as well as for film itself, I would say less is more. Too much candy will not satisfy, it'll just give you a tooth ache!

There are three, yes three different versions of the film, a U.S. Unrated, a French Language Unrated Director’s Cut, and a U.S. Dubbed, which all clock in at the same running time!? Go figure! My advice: the bad old kung fu dubbing was funny twenty years ago, so stick to the Original French Language Cut, as you should really see this film the way the director intended. Plus, with a high body count, you can count on a low word count. (Go subtitled, you lazy turd!)

Commentary (with Director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur): I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like this commentary, although it’s not mind blowing. There are some wild stories (how director Aja was lying down in the back seat of De France’s car, watching video assist, while the truck behind them was ramming!), but overall, the info and talk is very blasé. I really wanted to hear about the difference between the U.S. version and the original French director’s cut version. What was changed and how did Aja feel about it? No answers here. This commentary is strictly for die-hard fans of HIGH TENSION, for all others, jump to the “Making of “ featurette. It’s half the time, double the info!

DVD Introduction by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur (0:25): A really quick snippet where Director Aja and his writing partner Levasseur (who both look like they slept in their clothes and just woke up!) intro the unrated version of the film. (Note: turn the English subtitles section to on first, unless you speak fluent French!)

Haute Horror: The Making of High Tension (23:46): Why is it that the Aja and Levasseur speak some English in this Featurette, but not in the intro? But do not turn off those English subtitles yet, as various people, lead actress De France for one, pop up speaking only French, so get ready to do some reading here. (And in all the special features for that matter!) Just as an aside, and I don’t mean to nit pick here, but why are some of the subtitles in this featurette at the top of the screen, optimally covering some people’s faces? But I digress. This is a very thorough and fully entertaining mini-doc. It covers everything from casting, to shots, to make-up effects. Even if you don’t like the film, this one is worth watching.

Building Tension: For High Tension (8:14): Here, we get the low down on what different elements added to the tension in the film. Some of the better moments (and there are few), like giving the killer just a leather boot noise and heavy breathing, could have easily been trimmed and put into the previous “Making of”. This doc, not so healthy, skip it.

Giannetto De Rossi: The Truth, The Madness & The Magic ( 7:42): Here, the focus is on make-up artist De Rossi, and I’m split on this one. Five minutes of this is spent ass kissing (“this guy is really a genius”) and talking about the obvious (“the make-up style always follows the director’s vision”). A snore fest. But there are a great two minutes, under the heading of Case Study, where De Rossi shows you how he did certain effects. These are extremely fascinating to both a fan and filmmaker. It’s just a shame there wasn’t more of it! (aka fast forward till you see the words Case Study!)

Selected Scenes Commentary with Alexandre Aja and Cecile De France:

Best Friends (8:07): Aja starts with an explanation of the story. De France chimes in late, at the 2 minute mark. (Didn't even know you were there!) Mostly talk about characters, at least in English, but the good stuff we heard in the “Making of” Doc. Yawn.

Victims (15:10): More light talk. An interesting tidbit, here and there, like influences, but this stuff is mostly fodder. (De France – “when I shooted this scene, of course, when the camera was on me, there was nothing, just a camera!”)

The Gas Station (6:44): Starts of with interesting info, (gas station took a week to shoot, influenced by DePalma), but then reverts to same ole, same ole.

Pursued in Forest (5:55): Summarization of comments: Editing is great, left both of them very happy, with good memories about this film. Wow!

The Real Killer (10:53): This one had so much potential to be great, the theory behind the twist. But again, their time and mine, wasted.

There is also a Trailers (11:38) section, featuring CRASH, RIZE, HOUSE OF D, DESPERATE SOULS, UNDEAD, DARK HARVEST 2:THE MAIZE (“Some warnings should not be ignored” – yeah, but some trailers should!) and SAW 2. (And yes, a DVD Credits section, if you are an enquirer reader and you have to know!)
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
For those with just a taste for blood, any blood (yes, you fans of the Rob Zombie flicks!), go out and get it! But for those who want more than just fresh meat, best look elsewhere.
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