Two friends – Marie and Alexia– head out to the country home of the latter’s parents. In the middle of the night, a killer breaks in, slaughters the family, and makes Alexia his prisoner. Marie is locked in a battle to save her friend and not become a victim herself.
Of such simple storylines are horror classics made. Leave it to the French, who, after all, invented the horror movie, to pump such gloriously bloody life back into the cinema of atrocity. After an early bit of extrem… nastiness in the opening minutes of the film, the movie gets down to serious terror and atrocity barely a quarter of an hour in, and from that point on never lets up. The murders are extremely gory and among the most brutal of recent memory. The suspense will leave viewers clawing their flesh until they bleed. The resolution won’t satisfy everyone, but on balance, it worked for me. We have recently been deluged with so many films that either remake or ape the hardcore masterpieces of the 1970s, but here, at last, is the true inheritor of the mantle of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left. It doesn’t try to recreate their vibe. It simply applies their lesson: assault the audience without pity. This is one brutalized audience member who is profoundly grateful. Forget Saw. It’s The Brady Bunch next to this.
Bad news for the faint of heart very early on. The soundtrack is LOUD and very immersive. The music is big and full of jolting cues that come at you from unexpected directions. The sound effects are very atmospheric, and the placement of both them and the dialogue is superb. Speaking of the latter (which never distorts), though the English dubbing is passable, the original French is infinitely preferable.
Though there is some grain visible, this is the only cause for complaint about an otherwise excellent transfer. The colours are very strong, as are the flesh tones and the blood (oooohh, red). There is no edge enhancement, and the image is extremely sharp.
There are three different versions of the film here: the US theatrical, dubbed version, the US unrated version (also dubbed), and the original French release. There are three featurettes – “Haute Horror: Making of High Tension,” “Building Tension,” and “Giannetto De Rossi: The Truth, the Madness and the Magic.” They’re fairly standard stuff, but not uninteresting, and the last is a treat, begin an all-too-rare interview with the Italian maestro of gore makeup, responsible for the nastiness in, for instance, many of Lucio Fulci’s films. Director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur introduce the movie, and Aja is joined by lead Cécile De France on commentary for five scenes. There’s also your usual clutch of trailers. The menu is, for the most part, animated and scored.
Great, gory, terrifying stuff. The best in a long time. Special thanks to Lions Gate for putting the original, uncut version on DVD.
Special Features List
- Selected Scene Commentary
- Theatrical, Unrated and Original Versions
- 3 Featurettes
- DVD Introduction