HIGH TENSION (2003) Review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Second Sight. 4K/Blu ray Dual. 22nd January

Possibly best known as the slightly nonsensical but cool title Switchblade Romance in the UK, Second Sight have gone with the translation of it’s more appropriate French title Haute Tension in releasing it as High Tension.

The film opens with a badly injured woman stumbling through a forest – a car screeches to a halt as she runs in front of it. “Help me”… Marie (the striking Cecile de France) awakens – she has been dreaming – whilst being driven by her best friend Alex (Maïween). We also get a scene of a grungy guy in a dilapidated van who presents a new meaning to giving head! Pay attention at the back, this may be important later.

The duo are driving to an isolated farmhouse where Alex’s parents and little brother Tom live. They settle in and then late that night the van from earlier pulls up outside. The door bell rings and the bloody, brutal killings begin – we are talking full-on, no holds barred gore!

Who is this mysterious stranger (Philippe Nahon) and why is he targeting the household? The tension ratchets up as the relentless killer searches the house for victims.

Intense and powerful this brought director Alexandre Aja to the attention of the horror community – since then he has helmed such outings as The Hills Have Eyes remake in 2006 and Piranha 3D in 2010.

As the film progresses and the extreme bloodshed and arterial spray continues, you think the film is going one way and then something happens that takes things sideways – if you have seen the movie previously you know of what I speak. No spoilers!

A part of what became known as New French Extremity, this proved to be quite a divisive horror – best not to overthink it and just go with the genuinely gripping scares and bloody mayhem. Now whether what happens late in the storyline fully hangs together is open to question but I remember when I first saw it at FrightFest, back in the day, thinking it was an audacious idea – though I know many found it ridiculous. Watch and decide for yourself. Great make-up fx by Gianetto De Rossi.

Steve Kirkham

4 stars
Commentary by Dr Lindsay Hallam
Interviews with director Aja (35 mins), writer Gregory Levasseur (19 mins), cinematographer Maxine Alexandre (17 mins) and SFX artist Gianetto De Rossi (13 mins)
Only the Brave: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on High Tension
Archive ‘Making of’ featurette
Archive Interviews with Cécile De France, Maïwenn and Philippe Nahon

You also get Rigid slipcase with new artwork by James Neal; 70-page book with new essays by Anna Bogutskaya, Prince Jackson, Stacie Ponder and Zoë Rose Smith and Six collectors’ art cards with this limited edition.