As I watched the end of High Tension, my immediate reaction was to storm out of my office, walk down the hallway, kick open the door to Arleigh’s mancave and yell at him for recommending this film to me. But then, I realized that Arleigh never recommended that I watch High Tension. He recommended La Horde and I got my French horror movies mixed up.
So, Arleigh is off the hook. I have no one to blame but myself and the filmmakers.
Anyway, High Tension is one of those films that starts out well but then totally falls apart due to a big twist that doesn’t make any sense. It’s also a pretty obvious rip-off of a Dean Koontz novel called Intensity. Intensity is a really good book, by the way. Perhaps not coincidentally, that awful twist that ruins High Tension is not present in Intensity. That twist was the one original thing that was contributed to High Tension and it pretty much ruined the whole movie.
Anyway, in High Tension, Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn) are law students and best friends. Marie is spending the weekend with Alex’s family. She meets Alex’s mom. She meets Alex’s dad. She walks around at night and smokes a cigarette and sits on a swing and briefly spies on Alex as she showers. And then, during the night, a killer (Philippe Nahon) suddenly shows up, kills mom and dad, and kidnaps Alex! Determined to save her friend’s life, Marie chases the killer across the French countryside. For a while, she’s locked in the killer’s truck with Marie. And then, later on, she’s in a car and she’s chasing the truck. Because of the twist, it’s important to pay attention to the scenes where Marie is in a car and chasing the killer’s truck. Because, honestly, I’m not sure how any of that was supposed to have actually happened…
See, I love a good twist. I love a clever twist. I love an implausible twist. I love twists that are totally and completely over the top. What I do not like is a totally and completely unfair twist, one that cheats by basically defying the laws of the physics.
What’s truly unfortunate is that the film works perfectly without the twist. The twist is not necessary. (For proof, just read Intensity.) Up until the twist, the film is well-directed and suspenseful. Cecile de France, Maiween, and Nahon all give excellent performances. The film’s graphic violence may be excessive but it’s still undeniably effective. The nightmare-inducing gore effects were provided by Giannetto De Rossi, who created some of the most effective zombie makeup of all time for Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.
I mean, there’s so much that works and then just hit that twist and you shout, “Dammit!”
It could have been so good.