In preparation for upcoming exams, co-eds Marie and Alex head out to the country home of Alex's family for a quiet weekend of rest and studying. Things start out well enough, but all that changes when, in the dead of night, an intruder comes lurking, plunging everyone into a night of unrelenting horror. This is apparently an unauthorized adaptation of a Dean Koontz book, but since it's one I'm not familiar with, I can only judge this one on its own terms...
...and in that regard, this is a gloriously awesome horror/suspense thriller. Yeah, it delivers the goods where the gore and mayhem are concerned, but this is also really appropriately named, since this film does have an extreme level of tension, suspense, and intensity. I'm not kidding. This is a real nail biter the vast majority of the time. The plot is pretty basic and bare, and there's not a great amount of dialogue, but I'm totally fine with this being a relentless cat and mouse affair.
The film does contain a huge plot twist, and it's one of the most divisive in recent memory. I'm mostly in favor of it, as it adds a whole new level of twistedness to the lurid story, and actually holds up pretty well. Yeah, it's not airtight, but most of it works without having to do too much stretching. A lot of people seem to hate it, but I rather appreciated the fact that it doesn't spoon feed everything. That's a rarity in general, but especially for an exploitation film like this.
co-writer/director Alexandre Aja himself even said that the plot really isn't important, and it's more about the mood, atmosphere, and tone more than anything. That's fine, and I applaud them for making the focus primarily on the building and maintenance of suspense. They are successful with that goal, but even then it's not a total excuse for a something with such a thin plot.
The film's art direction, set design, sound design, heck, all the technical stuff is wonderful. You really feel the chaos that the characters are going through. It's well shot, and, where the effects go, they are brilliant. The bloodshed isn't nonstop, but when it hits, it really delivers with some effectively gruesome effects that were superbly done practically by renowned effects man Giannetto De Rossi.
Performancewise, the cast do a solid job, conveying most everything through actions and what sparse dialogue here is, and in the case of the two female leads, I really gotta commend them for the expert manner in which they get put through the wringer and really deliver. Philippe Nahon is likewise quite creepy and effective, and proves quite memorable as well.
All in all, this is a fantastic film. It's not perfect, but it works a lot better than it should. It manages to both please gore hounds and those who love to gorge themselves on atmosphere and suspense. It also pulls off some great homages to the past while standing on its own feet, so definitely keep an open mind and give this one a go.