There are two new directors, in my book, who can play ball in the horror arena. The first is Eli Roth. Eli Roth has an incredible understanding and passion for the genre and though he has only made one feature so far, I think it is pretty damn obvious he knows how to make a modern throw back any true horror fan can appreciate.
Then there is Alexandre Aja. This man has got an eye for horror unlike any director I have seen in the past twenty years. Haute Tension isn't a masterpiece, in my eyes, but it is a first time entry into a genre that, though forgiving, isn't very lenient. If you try to make a horror movie and don't do it right, the genre won't pull any punches in letting you know about it. But Alexandre Aja has no need to worry about the genre masses reactions to his first horror film, because simply put, Haute Tension is a better made film than every single horror film of the past decade.
Though I am a horrorphile, I'm not all that big on slasher/surrival films. I don't find much scary about them and I find that most directors take the exact same route from conception to completetion when it comes to making a slasher entry. Basically, slasher films bore me. I respect them for how they are made, but they're all so formulaic that I'm never that interested in them. Haute Tension just bucked that trend.
The plot is simple; two young students return from college for a study session at one of the girl's isolated farm houses in the countryside of France, only to have a serial killer come to the house at night and do what serial killers do best. But where the generic storyline first proves itself to be above all other entries is roughly six and a half minutes into the film. It is at this time mark that the movie proves it has got the balls to go places other horror films just aren't going anymore. It takes something incredibly simple and almost disgustingly intimate and blindsides the viewer. Maybe I just wasn't ready for it, but this incredibly primitive (I'm talking almost insignficant in the scope of the whole film) action is one of the greatest indicators of the potential of this film and the fact that it occurs so early in the movie is of enormus credit to Aja and his understanding of what needs to be done in a horror film.
From this moment on the movie takes on a level of grit that hasn't been seen in a horror film since the two films that created this emulation of rawness; The Last House on the Left and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Once the nightmare begins, Alexandre keeps it going for the entire length of the film. The title says it all. You watch the movie expecting haute tension, and high tension is what you get. The sound editing and cinematography are so incredibly top notch that it makes me cry thinking that this movie could do with a $2.5 million dollar budget what horror films with budgets ranging in the double digits can't even come close to accomplishing. You can literaly feel every creak on every floorboard caused everytime the killers footstep falls as he stalks around the aged farmhouse looking for his next victim.
The art direction and framing of every shot is utterly flawless. Combined with the editing, which is textbook perfect, I have to recommend this movie for it's style alone. It'll make your physical heart pound and your cinematic heart weep.
While the movie achieves a state of fear that is as rare in a horror film these days as non-augmented breasts, there are three complaints I have to make about the film.
Firstly, the manner in which the father is killed. It is so cheesy and anticlimactic that I actually felt like someone had just robbed me. Robbed me of what, I'm not sure, but it felt like something I had been given was just snatched right out of my hands and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out what the hell was just stolen from deep inside me.
Secondly, the use of Muse as the musical backdrop for a car "chase" scene. It was just completely out of place. I love the song Bliss and while the lyrics may be appropriate, the song just isn't. Imagine if the stomping of Billy Batts in Goodfellas was instead overlayed with a Britney Spears song and you'll understand just how idiotic the choice of Muse for that sequence was. They used the same song about 15 minutes later in the movie and it worked perfectly. It just didn't belong and it really hurt the film in my eyes, which brings me to my third complaint.
After they leave the gas station, the movie takes a very steep dip. Alexandre Aja may be an incredible rareity in the horror genre and though he can simulate a painfully penetrative sense of intimacy in a house, he is in the deep end of the pool when it comes to maintaining any level of tension when a car "chase" is involved. Once the cars are left behind and the story returns to what it is best at, Aja jumps back on top of Mount Olympus, but for that breif period I felt cheated.
I personally felt the ending of the film was very complementary, but I can understand how some people will have an obvious aversion to it. It'll split viewers straight down the middle. People will either love it or hate it and I really think it'll be the deciding factor as to whether or not people ultimately like this film. I loved it and can't respect it enough, but if you don't have a true respect for horror movies, you may just find this magnificent first entry rather mediocre.
But I gotta say, this movie is a gift for anyone who wants to understand how horror movies can still be made. Alexandre Aja is a godsend of a director to the genre and I cannot wait until he wraps the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. A remake worth noting because Wes Craven personaly asked the duo behind Haute Tension to do it.
Horror's Not Dead
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Last edited by OG-; 12-18-2004 at 10:32 PM.