Saturday, May 28, 2011

High Tension

So, I had heard about this movie before, and it occurred to me that the movie aficionados of the internet seems to have some sort of bizarre hate-love thing going on for this one, a bit like me and several filmmakers that shall remain unnamed in this post, lest we get derailed. But ok, I'm told, even by those who do not like it, that it's a fairly atmospheric movie that has quite a bit of tension to it, so I figured it'd be worth a shot. Plus, it has Muse on the soundtrack, and I'm willing to forgive a lot when my British Alt-Rock friends are involved.

Forgiving this, though? No can do

So, High Tension, or originally Haute Tension, or "Switchblade Romance" as it is known in the UK and Scandinavia (now that's a lot of titles,) is a fairly basic slasher story from France. The story is about two college girls, Marie and Alexa, who goes to visit Alexas parents, only to have their rural calm and relaxation ruined by a passing trucker who thought killing everyone in the house and anyone else he might encounter would be a decent form of recreation. There's also a twist near the end, but I'm going to get all the other stuff I want to say about this movie, because that twist is spoiler-tastic, and very instrumental to my overall impression of this movie.

So, in my big Slasher Movie Taxonomy, I'd place High Tension somewhere between The Strangers and some of the middle Friday 13th movies. It's a bit of a strange place, but it'll do. There's a couple of frankly insanely gory fatalities (such as the "Cupboard Decapitation" and the oldie but goodie "Axe To The Torso,") while the main focus being our heroine running around, hiding while being scared pretty much shitless by a murderer that appears to be lurking ''just'' outside of view most of the time. I personally found some of the gore effects a little ridiculous, but I'm not a huge gore fan, so there's me.

Now, as I mentioned, there's a lot of panicky running and hiding in this movie, and this could be pretty boring, but it works, partially because our hero actually has a reason for not booking it, which adds to the aforementioned tension. The more I think about it, the more this reason ties into the twist, but I shouldn't get to that just yet.

Let me just talk about the titles for a little bit. High Tension is a pretty ok title, but it's awfully generic, like how Scream was supposed to be called "Scary Movie" (yes, really,) I guess. I actually like the alternative title better, it has a vaguely unnerving ring to it, although I can't really remember much switchblade useage, which is a shame, because switchblades are cool, in a "this thing is ridiculously dangerous"-kind of way. The second half of the title, though? Maybe more relevant, but I'll get to that. BLUH BLUH, HUGE SPOILERS below.

Alright, it's finally twist time. So, as the movie progresses, it's revealed that the trucker is Marie... well, an alternative personality of hers anyway. Ostensibly, Marie has gone mad with lesbian lust towards Alex, and when I say mad, I mean PROPER mad, "chase the object of your affection through the woods with powertools"-mad. Now, that's a bit weird, to say the least, and there might be some other explanation than that, but if so, it's pretty well hidden. Also,  there's plot holes the size of caribou in this thing now. Every time the trucker did something off screen while Marie was on-screen, we're left with a bit of a conundrum, especially when our two heroines is in the back of the killer's truck, while he's driving it... yeah, that doesn't quite fit with the trucker really being Marie, now does it? 

Ok, I will be fair, if this whole thing is from Marie's point of view, she could be seeing and hearing things that isn't so, but there's still logistical problems up the wazoo, requiring our villainous protagonist to be at least two places at once, and you can explain a lot by a degenerating grip on reality, but there should be a limit here somewhere. I mean, at some point you have to show how this is supposed to work. All in all, the twist left me thinking about the movie after I finished it, which is a good thing, but it left me thinking it was actually pretty dumb, which isn't quite as good.

Maybe I'm just being unreasonable, though, because the journey up to the point of the spoiler is fairly good as far as slashers go, although it's far from dethroning The Strangers as my favorite straight slashers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Before And After II: Insidious Part The Second

There are definite advantages to being a pessimist, you can safely avoid a lot of disappointment that way, but that said, there are few feelings sweeter than having something actually turn out as good as you expect. If there was any doubt, I liked Insidious.

So, the story is pretty much what it says on the tin. This couple starts experiencing weird shit after their son ends up in a coma, the circumstances around said coma also being in the "weird shit"-category. Eventually, they discover that their son has managed to astrally project himself on to way too deep astral water, and now all manner of undead dicks want his vacated body, and the evilest of these, some sort of demon, being the closest to manage this. Needless to say, this would be bad, for more than one reason.

There are a couple of things with the story that I found, well, rather refreshing, for the lack of a better word. For one, yes, the wife is the one who discovers weird shit going down first, as is customary for these films it would seem, but when she confronts her husband about it, he's initially skeptical, but actually agrees to move out of the house, something that, in most Haunt-movies would solve the problem entirely. This movie, though, is similar to Paranormal Activity, in that it's actually a person who's haunted, rather than a location. This, for obvious reasons, makes this gesture rather pointless in the large scope of things, but still, he seems like a more pleasant guy than a lot of ghost movie fathers, so that's something.

Of course, this sympathy towards the father becomes very important near the end, where the dad enters the shadowy dark world that is The Further. It brings to mind how that Silent Hill movie got a lot of flak for turning the main character into a woman, the implication being, the critics claimed, that males could not go through hell for their offspring, that it was "a chick ting" if you will. Well, insidious doesn't do that, although I do see the more practical reason for the father to be the one with talents in Astral Projection, but that's a little too spoilery even for me.

Now, to the important stuff. The scares. Insidious brings the good stuff in this regard too. The scares are fairly low-key, not relying on the obnoxious jumpscares. One that works especially well is just past the halfway point, when the mom wakes up from some nightmare or other, and we see someone walking outside her window. Initially, I was in full "OHSHI-"-modus, but nothing was made of it, and it wasn't until whoever it was passes again, and she asks if it's her dear hubby I relax, only for the thing, a ghost if you were curious, teleport in and start being unpleasant. The timing is part of what makes it work, together with a lack of over the top orchestral stings and other silliness. The part in The Further is also pretty well done, it's rather subtly unnerving in a very "Ghost House"-kind of way, and although it does get kind of hectic after a while, it still feels rather subtly unnerving in the "less is more" way that oh so few horror movies seem to be able to do.

In summation, Insidious is a pretty good horror movie. Nothing brainmeltingly original or genre-defining like Saw I, but considerably much more scary, possibly a bit of a Paranormal Activity light for those who can't stand Found Footage films, or just a good film in its own rights, for that matter.