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Haute Tension: A Review
Haute Tension, or High Tension in English, is a 2003 French slasher film directed by Alexandre Aja and co-written with Grégory Levasseur. It stars Cécile de France and Maïwenn as two female friends who go to a secluded farmhouse for a weekend of studying, only to be attacked by a brutal serial killer. The film is known for its graphic violence, shocking twist ending, and controversial dubbing and editing for the American release.
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The film begins with Marie (de France) being interrogated in a hospital, where she claims to have no memory of what happened. The film then flashes back to the events of the previous night. Marie and Alex (Maïwenn) are driving to Alex's parents' house in the countryside, where they plan to study for their exams. Along the way, they encounter a rusty old truck driven by a mysterious man (Philippe Nahon), who later drops a severed head out of his window.
At night, Marie lies awake in her guest room, listening to music and masturbating, while Alex sleeps in her own room. The man from the truck arrives at the house and rings the doorbell. Alex's father (Andrei Finti) answers the door and is slashed in the face with a straight razor. The killer then pushes his head between the staircase spindles and decapitates him with a bookcase. Alex's mother (Oana Pellea) hears the commotion and goes downstairs, only to find her husband's corpse and be confronted by the killer. Marie hears her screams and hides under her bed, while the killer searches her room but does not find her.
Marie sneaks downstairs and sees Alex chained in her bedroom by the killer, who then drags her to his truck. Marie follows them and manages to get inside the truck before it drives away. Along the way, she tries to free Alex and signal for help, but fails. The truck stops at a gas station, where Marie kills the attendant (Franck Khalfoun) and takes his phone and shotgun. She calls the police, but they do not believe her story. She then confronts the killer, who has returned to his truck, and shoots him in the chest.
Marie drives away with Alex, but the killer survives and chases them in his truck. They reach a forest road, where Marie crashes the car and runs into the woods with Alex. The killer follows them on foot and catches up with them at a greenhouse. Marie fights him with an axe and manages to kill him by stabbing him in the eye. She then hugs Alex and tells her that she loves her.
The film then reveals that Marie is actually the killer, suffering from a split personality disorder. She imagined the man as a projection of her violent side, driven by her repressed lesbian attraction to Alex. The film shows scenes from earlier in the film from a different perspective, revealing that Marie killed Alex's family and kidnapped her. Alex was aware of this all along and tried to escape from Marie several times.
The film returns to the present, where Marie is still holding Alex in the greenhouse. Alex grabs a piece of glass and stabs Marie in the stomach, then runs away. Marie chases her to the road, where she sees a police car approaching. She tells Alex that they will never be apart and kisses her. Alex bites her tongue off and spits it out. The police arrive and shoot Marie in the shoulder, causing her to fall back into the greenhouse. The film ends with Marie smiling at Alex from inside.
Haute Tension received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its intensity, style, and performances, but criticized its plot holes, logic flaws, and twist ending. The film has a 41% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 123 reviews , and a 42 out of 100 score on Metacritic based on 28 reviews . Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four , calling it \"poor, nasty, brutish and short\" and \"not possible\" given the laws of physics. He also disliked the dubbing and editing of the American version, which cut some scenes of violence and changed the dialogue to make Alex an American. Other critics, such as Kim Newman and James Berardinelli , praised the film as a homage to the slasher genre and a stylish exercise in suspense and horror.
Haute Tension is a film that polarizes audiences with its extreme violence and controversial twist. It is a film that challenges the conventions of the slasher genre and explores the themes of identity, sexuality, and madness. It is a film that can be seen as either a masterpiece or a mess, depending on one's taste and expectations. It is a film that, for better or worse, leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.