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High Tension (2005)
Not Rated

Starring: Cecile de France, Maiwenn Le Besco, and Philippe Nahon

out of

Horror films have gone thorough various stages of "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" over the years. From the slasher movies of the 1980s that were spawned from 1978's Halloween to the post-modern horror films of the Scream era, when one film breaks new ground, ten more try to repeat the same formula -- usually with less-than-stellar results. Now, it seems, horror is in the M. Night Shyamalan "twist-at-the-end, no matter how plausible" era. High Tension, a French horror movie made in 2003 but released theatrically in the States in the summer of 2005, is one example of building a movie around a twist ending and forgetting to include a thread of plausibility in the process.

Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) are two young college students who travel from school back to Alex's parents farm in rural France. Intending to spend their break time studying for finals, the pair arrive late one evening with nary a chance to introduce Alex's family to Marie before they all retire for the night. Soon after the lights are out, a truck pulls up the driveway and a man (Phillipe Nahon) jumps out and rings the doorbell. Alex's father answers the door and is promptly murdered. The killer enters the home and begins offing the family, while Marie hides in her upstairs room undetected.

Alex is tied-up, but not harmed. Marie finds her while the killer chases Alex's young brother outside into a cornfield. Vowing to save Alex, Marie attempts to call the police but, of course, the phone line has been cut. Marie eludes the killer's sight once more but Alex is put into the back of the truck to be transported somewhere, presumably to have awful things done to her. The killer makes one last sweep of the house, making sure he's killed everyone else. While he's busy, Marie tries to free Alex from her bindings, but ends up getting stuck in the back of the truck with Alex as the killer drives off with both of them.

Their next stop is a gas station/convenience store where the killer has to fill up the truck with gas to get to the as-yet-undisclosed location. Marie manages to get out of the truck but instead of making a big scene to alert the authorities, she tries to hide in the store and fails to tell the cashier what's going on before it's too late. The cashier is murdered and Marie is forced to hide yet again. Marie's pattern of not confronting the murderer and also making really stupid decisions continues until the movie's big twist. As much as I want to, I will not spoil this poorly conceived plot device other than to say it's so implausible that it made me feel silly for even wanting to know how the movie would end in the first place.

Rivaling the gore levels found in Dead Alive and Evil Dead, High Tension, however, comes nowhere near being as inventive as those films in terms of plot, style, or humor. It's one big ugly exercise in stupidity.

(This review is based on the original French language Director's Cut found on the DVD.)

Trivia: Cecile de France trained with a Thai boxer to get in shape for her physically demanding role. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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