Film ó High Tension (R)


by Amy Diaz

The French produce a horror movie as brainless and slashtastic as anything starring a kid from The WB in High Tension.

Ah, the French. So full of themselves, so unable to back up their snobbery. Jerry Lewis? Yes, right, what was that you were saying about the American-led destruction of your culture? French movies by and large get a pass on some of their more ridiculous characteristics because of their French accent. Were these movies made in English with beaming-faced, well-scrubbed American actors weíd be guffawing over their goofiness. But because everythingís in French, we keep our smirks to ourselves and wait to see if others have found some deep philosophical meaning in all that half-baked plot and hokey dialog.

In High Tension, much of the Frenchness of the film has been dubbed over ó with American-accented English voices filling in for French (except occasionally, when the characters swear ó why? Who knows.). Thus Marie (Cecile De France), a pixie-haired Parisian, is the only character who actually has a French accent. Her friend Alex (Maiwenn) and Alexís family (Andrei Finti, Oana Pellea, Franck Khalfoun) all speak the inexplicable flat-accented, vaguely sing-songy English of a voice-over. Wonder about this all you want but ultimately it will not matter. For, as the movie shows us in the beginning, Alexís family lives in a remote rural area. And, as Marie and Alex drive to the familyís farmhouse home, we know that they are merely driving to the barrel in which they will be easy-to-pick-off fish for some psycho-killer (Philippe Nahon).

Ah, here we are, right on time, the psycho, who makes his first appearance on screen apparently receiving fellatio from some misguided girl. Oh, wait, no, sorry, his romantic partner is in fact the dismembered head of some unfortunate girl. Lovely. Through with this girl, he points his van toward Alexís farmhouse.

Itís night when he arrives and begins a straight-razor slash through Alexís family (itís never good, early in a horror movie, when you see a dog ó you just know that Fidoís gonna get it) that culminates with his kidnapping Alex. Marie, safe in the guest room, sees all the mayhem and, though hiding, tries ineptly to help her friend. She even climbs in the truck with Alex just before the killer shuts the door and attempts to free her friend once the killer takes to the road.

The movie lumbers on and on finding new ways to create gore until we reach an inevitable and highly ridiculous Big Twist ó a Twist which would be bigger and more shocking had the movie not gone to such extraordinary lengths to foreshadow it. (Also, this particular Twist is most effective upon reflection ó where you go back and say to yourself that, yes, everything you saw was correct but you can see now how there was a piece of the puzzle missing. If, on reflection, you come to the conclusion that the movie just lied to you for an extended period of time and then pulled a plot fake-out, you just feel cheated.)

High Tension isnít the worst of the seemingly millions of horror movies that Iíve been forced to sit through for the last few months. It isnít as bad as, say, House of Wax. The gore is, well, gory, for those who like that sort of thing. And De France, though ridiculous, is oddly entertaining. So, sure, High Tension isnít a horrible horror flick ó just donít be fooled into thinking itís any good just because itís French.

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