High Tension (8/10)
This is one of those examples of me wanting to see a movie based almost entirely on the strength of the film’s trailer. That doesn’t happen all too often. Did I like the film? Yes. Though it’s one of those movies that’s a tiny bit frustrating because it borders on being brilliant but falls short of completely pulling it off. The mistakes in the film are more frustrating than they truly should be, because the ultimate potential of the film is so close to working that anything that gets in the way of that makes a big impression. Before I get into what didn’t work, let me detail what does. First, Cécile De France’s performance deserves high praise. If there’s a single word I would use to describe either her performance or the movie itself, it would be the word “raw.” There’s nothing held back in this performance. It’s rare to see something this elemental and commited put on screen. Praise must also be given to director Alexandre Aja for some excellent visual flair and a great sense of pacing. Of course, I’m reviewing the edited USA theatrical cut, which means there were some alterations. Not the least of these is the dubbing job, which is in and of itself something of a weird thing. Most dub jobs on foreign films are awful. I actually found this dub job quite well done. What’s weird about it is how some of the dialog in now way lines up with their mouths (in usual dub style), but at other times I could swear they really are speaking English (for all I know, they were). Add to the mix that some of it is subtitled rather than dubbed, and it’s a rather weird exception to the norm. I never did get a handle on what warranted dubbing rather than subtitles. At any rate, if you like horror films that are more about suspense and performance than actual bloog and guts, and jump scenes, this is a movie for you. Not that there isn’t blood and guts, because there is (one or two scenes in particular are very impressive for their gore quality). Now, for what I didn’t like. There are huge spoilers in the rest of this review. Seriously, if you plan on seeing this, do NOT read any more of what I’m about to say. You have been warned. The biggest problem the film has is in something that could have been its best quality – the big plot twist. Quite frankly, the twist could have worked if they would have just made the stuff earlier in the movie work better with it. Sure, some of it is quite clever, but most of it just doesn’t fit. It’s a shame, too, because it’s really a cool approach. There are just way too many timing issues and logistics that don’t work in retrospect once the big shocker twist is revealed. Making it a psychotic split is an easy out for a writer, because they can chalk up any inconsistencies with the fact that the story is told through the perception of the psychotic character. But even still, it just doesn’t fit together. Frankly, this is one of the truly bizarre cases where the horror film would have turned out better if they would have stuck to genre and not tried to be clever. They were doing so very well with the horror and cat-and-mouse nature of the film, that they could have been more successful just sticking with that until the end – to take the “I Spit On Your Grave” approach to the story. The “Identity”/”M. Night Shyamalan” approach just doesn’t hold up upon more than superficial inspection. Still, no matter what the faults of the plot’s twist ending, it’s still a phenomenally effective horror film. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart.