High Tension (2003) Review

high tension reviewOriginal Title: Haute Tension

Synopsis: Two college friends, Marie and Alexa, encounter loads of trouble (and blood) while on vacation at Alexa’s parents’ country home when a mysterious killer invades their quiet getaway.

Quick Review: It’s interesting how the perception you had of a movie can change over the years. I first watched High Tension about 10 years ago and fell in love with it. It was a raw, brutal, unforgiving ride that started the new wave of french horror cinema that would bring us so many classics (Inside, Martyrs, Frontieres..).

Watching the movie again today, I had a much harder time appreciating it and could only focus on the negative aspects of it.

HUGE SPOILER WARNING!!! (stop here if you haven’t watched High Tension yet)

Now that I know the twist, I tried to check if there was any warning signs or clues throughout the movie that could have warned us. Except for one of the first line of Marie when she said she had a dream and she was chased by a killer, and the killer was her, there is nothing to make us think she might be the killer. And I’m fine with that. What’s not working though is that there are so many plot holes in that case, that the whole movie does not make any sense (where is the truck coming from, why are some of the victims reacting the way they do, what is in Marie’s imagination, what is not).

In retrospect it really does feel that Alexandra Aja and Gregory Levasseur only used the twist as a way to shock the audience, but there is not enough logic and ties-in with the rest of the movie to justify it. High Tension would have been the better movie if they had kept things straight with a classic villain (who, by the way is greatly played by the always awesome Philippe Nahon). On a side note, most of the movie follows the same plot than Dean koontz’s book, Intensity. A great read by the way.


In 2013, the movie also suffers from 10 years of torture porn and a myriad of gory slashers that make it much less impactful than it was back in 2003.

So what’s left? High Tension is still very efficient and brilliantly directed. The score and music choices are spot on and contribute to make High Tension an entertaining piece of horror cinema. Not the classic I once thought it would be, but still a must-watch in my book, if only to see the birth of Alexandra Aja as one of the new master of horror.

Rating: 8.5 (first viewing in 2003), 6.5/10 (second viewing)


Origin: France

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  1. I hated the twist. Loved the first half of the film but the twist ruined it for me. Such a great film to, very sad. To make you feel better, a lot of people felt the way you do. Especially the audience of Cannes Film Festival who booed Aleander Aja off the stage. They were so pissed because you love the film! I was with my girlfriend and we had to shut it off at the beginning. Was just way too much at once. Well, the audience and I loved the film so much that we were even more disappointed when the twist came around. We felt duped and upset that this great film just became an instant dud. I think Aja should go back and edit it again and change the story. I’m a Director and that’s what I would do.

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