Wednesday, October 1, 2014

High Tension (Haute Tension) (2003)

Le 3

directed by Alexandre Aja
starring Cécile de France, Maïwenn,
Philippe Nahon


In which a straight man's fantasy of a pouty French lesbian slaughters her best friend's entire family while imagining herself as a sadistic, middle-aged male trucker. Her objective: that she and said bestie might join twats, forever and ever, in glorious, porn-approved bliss with no one — not even the family dog — to stand in their way. But why this particular alter-ego/twist gambit? Is it commentary on society's scapegoating of men as the repository of all wickedness? Indictment of a woman's allergies to the notion of personal accountability? The unfashionable implication that butch dykes tend to harbor some serious identity issues?

Nah. It's simply the Movieland version of multiple personality disorder, y'see — shorthand for Bitch Be Crazy without all those boring bits of psychological background or character shading to interfere with the Pavlovian zaps to the horror audience's jump-in-your-seat reflex.


Certainly, director Alexandre Aja pours on the creeping, low tracking shots and the ominous soundtrack noises in all the right places. But who in this genre doesn't? A slit throat here, a decapitation by bookcase there — that's all it adds up to; nothing we can't get from any of the 5,623 other gore-and-torture-fests spawned by your Saws and your Hostels like future strippers in a Florida trailer park. Aja's so focused on making the most transgressive piece of splatter-shock he can think up (his goal: to win a place among the media-hyped enfants terribles of the New French Extremity) that he flouts the laws of good filmmaking — at least half of which stress basic plausibility. They also stress third-act reveals that won't elicit cries of "You have got to be fucking kidding me" from an audience that's witnessed the once-novel "They were the same person all along!/He didn't really exist!" bit morph into the hackneyed "It was all just a dream!" of our post-Fight Club/post-Sixth Sense/post-Donald Kaufman movie universe.

Aja even gives us a female masturbation scene and has the audacity to leave his actress's top on. Note to the director: this is a slasher flick, fella. A little respect for tradition goes a long way.

©2014 Scott Is NOT A Professional Film Critic

 
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