High Tension (2003)

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  •  (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Director Alexandre Aja's High Tension works as a slasher exercise in building tension a la Hitchcock or De Palma or Argento with an added element of extreme violence that made it associated with the New French Extremity movies in the early 2000s. Aja uses all his tools as a filmmaker to tighten the screws as a slow moving serial killer murders a family at a house in the rural south of France. The film is certainly not for the squeamish which becomes apparent early on in a scene involving the serial killer and a decapitated head. The carnage continues through the rest of movie as Marie and Alex attempt to escape the homicidal maniac. There are a few head scratching moments as our lead Marie tries in vain to contact the police, but her continued incompetence is refreshing in the slasher genre. The movie concludes with a completely unnecessary and ridiculous twist, which drops it down a notch. Still it does produce the tense thrills which it promised and is worth a watch if you can stomach it. The Lionsgate R-rated version has some horrible English dubbing early on in the movie and eventually transitions into mostly subtitles.

High Tension is a 2003 French slasher film directed by Alexandre Aja, written by Aja and Grégory Levasseur and starring Cécile de France, Maïwenn, and Philippe Nahon.

High Tension was picked up by independent distributor Lions Gate Entertainment following a successful screening at the Midnight Madness section of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was originally rated NC-17 in the U.S. for strong graphic violence. However, Lionsgate re-edited the film (to secure an R rating) and re-dubbed the film in English, then Lionsgate spent $14 million to open the film in wide release in the United States. However, the film eventually only grossed $3.6 million in United States theatrically. Lionsgate later released the original cut (referred to as an unrated version) on Blu-ray and DVD.

All of the effects were created by Italian horror make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi, a favorite of late director Lucio Fulci. High Tension has been associated with the New French Extremity movement.