Dir: Alexandre Aja. Cast: Cécile de France, Maïwenn & Philippe Nahon. 2003
Bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to the 1995 Dean Koontz novel Intensity, High Tension becomes its own animal with a twist ending that many have criticized, but which I feel gives it its essential and defining sting in the tail.
The simple story tells of two friends, young adult students, who head to the home of one woman’s parents in the French countryside in order to study. Once there, a serial killer attacks and takes one of the women hostage in his beat up van which looks like a travelling abattoir.
The actors are utterly convincing, the cinematography rife with sickly colours, and the film is violent, gory and suspenseful with special effects provided by Italian splatter master Giannetto De Rossi who is known for his work with Lucio Fulcio among others. In short, it delivers the goods.
During the climax (SPOILER) we discover that one of the women is the serial killer and has taken the other hostage, although we’ve been shown the craggy, 60+ Nahon as the killer until now. The reason for the chaos: Her denial of being a lesbian. Note, it’s not the fact that she is a lesbian, rather the fact that she suppresses it that facilitates the tragedy.
While many have criticized this twist, ignoring the admittedly subtle clues, and saying that it creates oversized plot holes, I think it’s really up to the audience to fill in those gaps by accepting that what we’ve been seeing is a story told through the point of view of an insane participant, and so things as we’ve seen them up to this point are simply not as they’ve seemed. (END SPOILER)
This French film was picked up for North American distribution by Lion’s Gate who trimmed it and dubbed it into English. Needless to say, the uncut version in its original language is the one to seek out.