High Tension (Switchblade Romance) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 2, 2013
Part of the 'New French Extremity' movement, Alexandre Aja's 'Haute Tension' (High Tension/Switchblade Romance) is a heart-pounding horror that will have you at the edge of your seat...before slapping across the face for caring. Cécile De France plays Marie, a young woman who is on a business trip with her friend Alexia (Maiwenn). Whilst on their journey the two stop off at Alexia's remote family home, only to find themselves as prey to a demented killer.

Haute Tension is very effective for it's first hour, managing to continually crank up the tension without ever stopping for a break or feeling drawn-out. In this respect, the film is masterfully paced, with Marie jumping from one set piece to another in a fashion that doesn't feel as forced as other films of the same genre. Music and sound is also used incredibly well throughout the film, with flourishes being added to moments of potential dread and heightening the sense of unease. Aesthetically the film feels as if it is a homage to the exploitation films of the late 70s, with realistic yet over the top Craven inspired violence being at the centre of the films narrative.

With everything being said it would seem as if Haute Tension was set up to be a classic, and it would be, that's if it didn't effectively ruin itself in the last 20 minutes with a twist that felt tacked on ridiculous, and rendered everything before it pointless.

Verdict: It's amazing if you pretend a quarter of it doesn't exist.
Super Reviewer
April 16, 2011
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.
Jack Hawkins
Super Reviewer
April 7, 2012
'Switchblade Romance' is a violent, cruel horror film that adopts the conventions from slasher films such as 'Halloween' and adds a psychological twist. Without giving anything away, I would say the twist can only be interpreted and explained in somewhat woolly terms, but one must remember they're viewing a film that is merely exploitation cinema.

I felt the film, though predominantly clichà (C)d, did manage to avoid becoming tired, its suspense was taut and relatively unpredictable. However, it only just managed it, it was a close call, those familiar with the slasher films of the 70s and 80s may feel 'Switchblade Romance' is just a bundle of rehashed themes. The film departs from its slasher relatives in respect to cruelty and realism; it has a gritty, unpleasant tone that is similar to 'Wolf Creek', the grisly Australian affair that appeared in 2005. Much like 'Wolf Creek', after it had finished I found myself asking 'Why? What's the point?' These overly sadistic, one track films leave me feeling rather hollow; they're a dose of visceral thrills that makes me question their status as 'entertainment'. I questioned why someone would want to make such one-dimensionally cruel films. The only purpose I could think of was how both films place the viewer in the 'What would you do if you were being stalked by a murderer?' situation, which indeed makes them a thoroughly engrossing, if stressful ordeal to watch.

Ultimately, 'Switchblade Romance' is a straight-forward endurance test that provides a decent amount of tension and gore, but its overall vapidity may leave you feeling slightly hollow by the end credits.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2011
Over the years, France has turned out quite a few effective, chilling and gory horror films; High Tension directed by Alexandre Aja is such a film. An effective chilling film, High Tension is one disturbing horror film. Brilliantly effective at inducing shock, High Tension is a film that you won't soon forget. High Tension is a much different Slasher film, one that is very well conceived with atmosphere and suspense. The killings of course are very grotesque and violent. High Tension departs significantly the Slasher genre, but retains key elements of the genre. The acting displayed by the actresses is excellent and Cecile De France is definitely memorable as the lead character. High Tension is the perfect name for the film, as the tension level is pretty high. The film is one of the best horror films that I have seen in quite some time, and the French are becoming masters of horror in their own right. Like I said, this film is different from other Slashers, and I do not want to give anything important away because this is such a solid horror film. Gorehounds will love this film as much as the regular horror fan. This film boasts some very impressive kill sequences and though it is extremely violent, the film builds effective tension and suspense with a dreadful atmosphere mixed with great kill scenes, and you have a memorable horror film. High Tension is a terrific, well crafted horror film with excellent directing from Alexandre Aja. Without a doubt, this is one of the most solid foreign horror films in quite some time.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2009
one of the many "secret window endings" that i saw after secret window came out. take that away it was a good time-killer
Super Reviewer
June 25, 2007
"I won't let anyone come between us anymore."

High Tension is aptly named. This French exercise in horror gets a tight grip on you early on, and doesn't let go. Fans of slashers and thriller movies will definitely be pleased with those aspects of High Tension. There are several scenes that are just exquisitely suspenseful, and it's violent and gory in exactly the right ways.

So why not an even higher rating? Two reasons. The first is that the movie isn't nearly as good on subsequent viewings as it was the first time around. This is directly related to the second reason, which is the direction the story takes in the final act.

Some people will be able to roll with it just fine, while others will feel that the plot takes an absolutely ludicrous turn. I couldn't really argue against either point of view. I think the movie might have been even better (and more plausible upon re-watching) if it didn't try to be quite so clever, but I still enjoyed it quite a lot the first time that I saw it.

If you're looking for more horror in the vein of a movie like The Strangers, you owe it to yourself to give High Tension a try. Just be aware that it's a pretty polarizing movie, and there's no telling which side of the fence you may end up on by the finale.
Super Reviewer
½ May 18, 2008
Simply fantastic, there are not enough movies out here today that follow such suit. Why french horror is probably one of my fave types. Review, TBC.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2009
Two students don't know what awaits them as they head to a remote country family home to study for upcoming exams. Horror ensues as a psychopathic "stranger" forces their way into the home as night falls.
This film does indeed have a twist that adds to the ascending tension in a unique tale of terror.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
Horror films these days are always a gamble when you're looking for something of quality. Most of them are remakes, rehashes of ideas or more akin to psychological thrillers, rather than flat out horrific. Haute Tension sort of falls in the category, in my eyes anyways, as a serious attempt at filmmakers trying step outside the norm and into something fresh and interesting. As far as the film's look, you couldn't do better. Plenty of atmosphere and dark places in which to crawl visually too. The color palette is gritty and de-saturated, giving it a documentary-type feel. If you're a gore hound like me, this movie delivers. Blood, and lots of it. The film's true strength lies in it's namesake, however. Always moving and always on edge, it keeps you nailed to your seat, awaiting the next turn of events. The acting is nice, however nobody really gives powerhouse award-winning performances, but they get the job done and carry the film well. The film's score, which is not much more than a constant dirge, is effective and refreshing. Where the film fails is really a smattering of different things. First of all, the twist ending, while creative, feels tacked on. It seems as if the only reason it exists is to set itself aside from films like Wolf Creek or even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. However, it is a think piece. Once the events of the film are laid out, you can assess what really took place. The film also fails in the editing. The storyline doesn't feel followed through enough and ideas are not brought up enough earlier in the film to justify its conclusion. Intentional or not, I feel the film could have benefited with further set up, rather than jumping straight into the horror. By the end of the film, I was pleased with the experience and it is a good film for horror buffs ONLY to watch because it can be quite intense. The film's flaws don't hold it back from being worthy of its reputation, or even its quality. A very well-made horror film in the age where quantity is more important than quality.
Super Reviewer
½ August 23, 2008
This movie is a bloody piece of crap!

First I'm going to justify the 1.5 stars.. the gore. Loads and loads of blood and mayhem. It is well done... very suspenseful and visually stunning.

Ok, lets forget about my morbid satisfaction in gory films.... This is an awful mess of a film. This movie primarily only builds suspense off the music and a semi-effective use of lighting. But it constantly switches between English and then French and then subtitled French, it was very irritating. Choosing one language and sticking with it would've made it seem more organized.

SPOILER ALERT! ... ok, I'm tired of this "twist"... she's the killer??? A damn schizo... AGAIN!!! I've seen this many times already. Where others mildly succeed, this one fails miserably because of huge plot holes. This twist completely betrays and contradicts everything that made up the first 3/4 of the movie. Some events are unexplainable due to this twist... the lack of clarity makes this movie (and its director) look stupid.

Unless you love sick, sadistic and over-the-top gory films, then throw back a few beers and watch this film without caring about what's really going on. You won't be disappointed because just about every scene is filled with gallons of blood.
Super Reviewer
July 3, 2008
A young student with a butch haircut (no points for guessing what that subtly reveals about her character) travels to a school chum's country home, where a French redneck (or something) starts chopping up the family. Despite some moments of suspense, it's not a thriller as the title suggests. but a slick slasher movie intended for viewers with strong stomachs.
Super Reviewer
½ February 9, 2008
A magnum opus. One thinks of great and iconic first horror films: Craven's "Last House on the Left", Carpenter's "Halloween", Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", Argento's "The Bird with Crystal Plumage". And we should be reminded of these as these are the films that the directors, Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, studied and adored in their youth. More specifically, they wanted to pay tribute to this new form of horror film which emerged in the early to mid 1970s. But this isn't a big allusion-fest, this is a contemporary extreme thriller. Aja and Levasseur have clearly digested the films they've seen and are capable of using that knowledge to create fantastic film.
Horror Not to Miss List Commentary:
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2006
This film may have gottten a better rating for me if I hadn't guessed the twist 5 minutes in. Literally. Going along everything fitted my theory. The problem is, is that this twist is so overused I keep it in mind when I watch any film. Of course this took all surprise and tension out of this film. It is still a brutal look at obsession/love and the madness it can drive people to. Plus it is quite gory and just a good splatter. Enjoyable, but annoying if you get it straight away.
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2006
A nice little twist on what could have been a predictable slasher film.

There was a fair amount of tensity to this film, along with a strong female lead, so many of these parts go to the typical 'bimbo' teen.

Somewhat corny, but a good movie for it's genre.
Super Reviewer
February 12, 2007
Holy Jebus, this movie takes the cake as one of the must stupid films made since...i don't know. What horror-fans have called, for a reason that might be one big universal mistery, a great work of horror is an endlessly excerise in repetition of the repetition, over-tedium, 101 horror cliches and even a "M. Night Shyamalan" touch of plot-twisting mentally-challenged retardation that almost made my cell brains comitt sepuku.

The slasher sub-genre of horror flicks seems to be truly the bottom end for no-talent hacks, like this Aja guy. Put every faceless-serial killer movie made from the last 20 or 30 years, mix everything from I Spit on Your Grave to every possible Friday 13 or Halloween flick, plus a plot-twist for the ages of stupidity (it's really that stupid) and you get this:

-The usual idiotic main lead that goes to the wrong places, takes all the wrong decisions that any human being with basic brain functions and comon sense would not take, and has nothing but "screams" as dialogue
-Put every slasher flick situation in the book, and repeat it by 10, killer appearing by surprise from behind? check, someone hidding in a small place from the killer? check. Jesus, there's even a scene where a car that was running like nothing doesn't start up again. Sorry mister Aja but i didn't start watching movies yesterday.

Of course of course, not every movie is suposse to be "new and unique" and i have nothing against a horror flick that wants to be nothing more than a simple thrill-ride. But at least have the frigging decency of actually trying. As neat and nice as the blood can be, it can't hurt to have at least one interesting character, or one interesting situation at all. Goes without saying that the director went to hollywood, where he keeps doing more generic crap.
Super Reviewer
February 29, 2008
scary and bloody as hell.
Loved it.
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2007
Would have been a great modern Horror/Slasher film if it wasn't for the utterly braindead and imensely implausable twist ending.
Super Reviewer
August 9, 2007
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2007
Good gore but preposterous "twist"
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2007
"Haute Tension" is one of the best horror films I have seen in years. It is appropriately gruesome and shocking and does not take the wise cracking, action movie based horror movie approach that so many recent horror films have taken. The film is well made and paced and builds up the suspense to a crescendo and does not overstay it's welcome. One would have found it unusual for French cinema to be the one to revitalize the horror genre which has become hackneyed and trite in Hollywood (so many want to refer to it as psychological thriller). The story follows 2 college co-eds visiting the homestead of one of the girl's family on a school break. A mysterious man in a mechanic jumpsuit and old truck (reminiscient of the one in "Jeepers Creepers")comes to the house in the night and brutally murders the family, kidnaps the girl and overlooks her friend who has to pursue the killer to rescue her friend. Director, Alexander Aja, does not make a pedestrian, light weight horror film and the deaths in the film are disturbing and brutal. There is no humor or comic relief and the blood literally soaks the camera lens. The sense of dread and the unrelenting suspense and pace makes this a refreshing breath of fresh air from all of the PG-13 rated "Scream" wannabes that have been hitting the multi-plexes. Wes Craven had reportedly seen "Haute Tension" at Sundance and has hand picked Alexander Aja to remake "The Hills Have Eyes" and have free artistic licence since Craven had pegged him as the "future of horror." There is even a plot twist which you will either love or hate but it fits in well with the film. The performances by Cecile de France, Maewenn and the actor who portrays the killer are perfect. All in all, this is a French film that deserves to be seen in American multiplexes and a must see for horror movie fans the world over who have been having to settle for mediocre horror for many years now.
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