Switchblade Romance


Time Out says

The good old bad old days are back again with this heavy-duty psycho flick in which 26-year-old French director Aja, who’s obviously mis-spent his youth on a steady diet of video nasties, delivers full-on no-nonsense carnage redolent of late-’70s/early-’80s slasher ‘classics’. A bracing antidote to much of today’s mainstream horror output, where mayhem’s played for laughs for the delectation of mall-rat teens, this puts holidaying students Cécile De France and Maïwenn Le Besco at the mercy of the truly, madly, scary Philippe Nahon (of ‘Seul Contre Tous’ notoriety), who breaks into the latter’s parents’ house in the remote French countryside, and leaves a trail of broken bodies in his wake. De France evades his sadistic attentions, but her friend is now a hostage in the back of the killer’s van, so she gives chase without quite realising what she (or we) are in for.

With its superb sickly hued widescreen camerawork and brilliantly unsettling sound mix, you could argue that Aja’s film is rather more technically accomplished than the cheaply made shockers to which it’s paying tribute. The murders in the opening reel are crunchingly horrible, the stalk and chase sequences which follow extremely effective, the action culminating in a set-to with a chainsaw of white-knuckle ferocity, intensified by De France’s total emotional commitment to a gruelling role. And then, with utterly Gallic perversity, Aja throws in a twist, staggering for both its preposterousness and offensiveness, which undermines just about everything that’s gone before. Sexual politics are obviously not its maker’s home terrain, but, misgivings aside, this lives up to its original French title ‘Haute Tension’ and then some.

By: TJ


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