DVD Review: High Tension

High Tension makes no sense. There's no need to discuss plot points, dialogue, or acting, because this movie makes no sense. The ending is the real killer here, not the guy walking around with a saw chopping people up. It's a shame too, because the movie lives up to its name until the final moments.

This is a movie with almost no plot. The set up is quick, and around the 15-minute mark, there's almost need for another line of dialogue. A psychotic murderer enters into a house and begins to dismantle an entire family in some of the most innovative and gruesome ways possible. This guy knows no bounds, taking out the family dog and a child.

This all happens as lead actress C├ęcile De France attempts to make an escape, try to make frantic phone calls, find a new hiding spot, or try to protect her friend. Scenes inside the crammed house are incredible in how they build up the tension the title promises. Gore is insane, with some innovative death scenes, including one of the best decapitations you'll ever see.

It's effective enough to create the needed horror and carry the film. At a brisk 98-minutes, there's not much time for anything but killing, chasing, and more killing. This one garnered a NC-17 from the MPAA, and with very little language and only brief nudity, it's earned entirely by the films over-the-top violence.

Then the unthinkable happens. It's one of those "lets shock the audience with an ending that makes no sense just so they have to think about it." Sadly, people will leave this movie thinking about the twist ending, and realize after a few minutes that there's no point in wasting the energy. It's bad enough that it's completely illogical; it was unnecessary too. With a typical slasher film finish, the movie would have lost nothing. Instead, the twist makes the entire thing ridiculous.

There's still plenty of reasons to watch. Horror fans can witness classic gore, thriller fans will get a workout, and people who enjoy being shocked should have plenty to talk about. All of that assumes the movie is turned off around the hour and fifteen minute mark. Anything past that is too ludicrous to accept. (*** out of *****)

The superb, bright, and almost over saturated colors transfer over to the DVD format with few issues. The blood is as red as possible while avoiding compression issues. Film grain is occasionally ugly, though it works to the film's benefit. Superb black levels usually cover up any problems. (****)

Audio is available in either English or original French. Both sound the same, aside from the obvious dubbing. There's not much of anything here in the stereo or surround channels, though the bass adds that extra blast when needed (like when someone is being beaten to death by a barbed wire 2x4). It's rarely needed to any great effect, so the lack any real audio punch is negligible. (***)

Extras can't be considered packed, but there is a nice selection. After the useless intro from the films director and writer, you can move onto the highlight of the disc Haute Horror: The Making of High Tension. This 23-minute piece shows everything, and the crew discusses the benefits (and sometimes not) of low budget filming. Some of their stories are funny while showing their passion and good luck in some shots, in addition to typical casting and script discussions.

Building Tension runs like a checklist, showing how to properly pull an audience in and keep them involved. Various camera styles and color choices are used to show this in around eight minutes.
Gianetto De Rossi, the film's makeup artist, gets his own self-titled piece. His ways of working around a small budget, care for accuracy, and classic style are all shown, including how to properly slit someone's throat without actually doing it. The disc finishes of with a selected scene commentary by, again, the writer and director, and a ton of trailers. (****)

Truthfully, High Tension isn't original or a genre changer. It's done well, and for a rare French film to gain full exposure over here in the US, it had to be. You'll never forget the time you saw someone get their head sliced off by a dresser. Ever.

Comments (1)

Hehe, yeah it's good fun for the gorefest fan. Though the Dresser made no sense it was bloody great.

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