High Tension Alexandre Aja

High Tension Alexandre Aja
Not known for their horror films, the French came out of nowhere in 2003 with Haute Tension. Translated to High Tension in English (and titled Switchblade Sisters in Britain, an odd, revealing title), this film raised eyebrows for its brutal violence and authentic horror edge. It begins with delightfully transparent innocence: Alex and Marie drive to Alex's family's house in the countryside to take a break from studying. Little do they know that a murderous trucker is stalking the area. As night falls, the two women are placed in a nightmarish situation where the killer mutilates the family and takes Alex hostage. Marie is forced into the role of hero to save her friend from a madman. That's a vague synopsis, but anything deeper would result in giving away the major plot twist that comes in the final quarter of the film. The terror Aja presents is unrelenting and extremely vicious. The violent scenes are shot with a remarkable realism, which is quite freaky, considering a man is decapitated by a bureau. The first three-quarters of High Tension is gripping cinema that leaves you on the edge of your seat, but what transpires in the end is so utterly disappointing that the film earns a high recommendation based solely on seeing how badly Aja fucked up. "Haute Horror" explores the making of the film with Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur, who act annoyingly like two peas in a pod. Their explanations grow tiresome quickly, making it a difficult watch. "Building Tension" takes you through how the filmmakers constructed the apprehension, which finds them pompously labelling their work "experimental." A featurette in tribute to makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi is the best doc because it finds Aja and Levasseur talking about someone other than themselves and a man who is a legend in his field, who turned this mess of a film into something wonderfully gratuitous and visceral. Plus: introduction, selected scenes commentary, trailers. (Maple)