“High Tension” (2003) – This savagely violent picture from France innocently begins when Alex (Maiween Le Besco) invites her college friend Marie (Cecile De France) to her family’s farmhouse for rest and relaxation.
This big and beautiful home – surrounded by corn fields, a clothesline in the backyard and a welcoming family inside – seems like a Norman Rockwell painting that has come to life.
Mayhem, however, is soon to follow, and director/co-writer Alexandre Aja splatters buckets of blood all over the pristine aforementioned figurative artwork. Aja doesn’t shy away from ugly, senseless cruelty through a brutally ferocious perpetrator, Le tueur (Philippe Nahon), a heavy man who sports a baseball hat and blue-collar jumpsuit, but what is his motivation?
Michael Myers tried to kill his sister, and Jason Voorhees was ticked off at camp counselors for letting him drown, but we don’t know what makes Le tueur tick.
Sometimes, it’s not important to know why. Killers are just killers.
Well, De France kills as the lead protagonist Marie, a resourceful co-ed with a buzzcut of bright red hair, but is trapped an unfamiliar setting. Not unlike Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Marie makes smart decisions to keep herself out of harm’s way, but also summons the courage to fight back.
If Strode picked up a wooden fencepost, circled with barbed wire and came out swinging, well, that’s Marie.
With an athletic build and a think-on-her-feet attitude, Marie gives the audience a flicker of hope that she will find a way out of this hopeless situation. Aja does so by setting up key cat-and-mouse sequences on grand and small scales that live up to the film’s title.
Be warned, in one massive way, Aja’s movie does not play fairly. Not at all, but “High Tension” will please horror movie fans who enjoy a good scare and buckets of blood.
Image credits: EuropaCorp; Clip credits: Movieclips