Written by Grégory Levasseur and Alexandre Aja and directed by Aja, “High Tension” (also known in several formats as “Switchblade Romance”), is a French Horror/Slasher film that was suggested to me by a fellow film obsessive. While this isn’t really the type of film I gravitate towards, I thought I’d give it a shot anyways. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by so called Midnight Movies before, “Bucket of Blood” by Roger Corman in particular was a film that I found to have far more entertainment value that I would have initially expected. So, I recently popped in a copy of the foreign horror flick to see what the film had in store for me.
Admittedly, I didn’t realize this would be a slasher film at the outset, but it became clear to me once the villain entered the frame. Personally, I am not a fan of this sub-genre of the overarching horror aesthetic, I often find these kinds of stories to be predictable and overly gratuitous purely for the sake of shock and awe. This film definitely sends the violence into overdrive almost immediately. The rating on the copy I was watching was emblazoned with the studio-averse NC-17 rating, and they definitely owned that rating. The story is that of Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), best friends getting ready to study together out at Alex’s parent’s farmhouse in the French countryside. As you can imagine, things go south fairly quickly once the young women arrive at the isolated house surrounded by fields of corn. Once everyone has headed to bed, a large and imposing figure comes knocking at the door and forces his way inside by stabbing the father figure in the head through an open window in the door. From there the film evolves into a cat and mouse scenario between Marie and this unnamed brute. The Oaf quickly works his way through the house killing everyone except Alex, whom he chains up and tosses in the back of his truck. Marie scrambles to keep up, but often seems one step behind the killer.
At a brisk hour and a half, the film realistically couldn’t go on for much longer than that, “High Tension” unceremoniously ends. While the film does harbor a twist, it throws the rest of the film into question and becomes ridiculously unbelievable because of it. Honestly, it failed to keep me engaged and it was essentially what I had hoped it wouldn’t be. Overly violent without remorse, but with no connection to anything worthwhile, with no payoff and no semblance of coherence. Now, if you’re the type of person that just loves a good gore-fest and cheesy storytelling, then you might find something to enjoy here. That’s completely fine, but this film just wasn’t for me.
Final Score: Two Girls, One Chainsaw