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.